EAL/D students deserve better from government

If the Department of Education is committed to its Multicultural Education Policy, it must act to fill outstanding English as an Additional Language or Dialect (EAL/D) teacher vacancies, create additional permanent positions to address the rising numbers of EAL/D and refugee students, and provide the necessary professional development, release time and specialist language acquisition programs that support the complex learning needs present in our diverse classrooms.

The Department’s decision to provide schools with flexible funding rather than increase the state’s EAL/D staffing entitlement from 1000 full-time equivalent positions means the needs of culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) students in NSW public schools are not being met.

When schools receive money rather than permanent, qualified teachers, the system is fostering the casualisation of a qualified EAL/D teacher workforce. This is a disincentive for teachers to undertake the dual qualification, as their capacity to attain permanency is reduced.

Some 37.2 per cent of students (302,779 students) come from homes where 237 different languages other than English are spoken (Department of Education’s 2021 report into language diversity). With EAL/D student complexity and diversity growing by more than 115 per cent in two decades, student access to qualified EAL/D teachers has declined. Approximately 40 per cent of the EAL/D staffing entitlement is filled by unqualified EAL/D teachers and this rises to approximately 45 to 50 per cent in regional areas (TESOL NSW survey results of EAL/D teachers 2021).

Specialist knowledge in second language acquisition is imperative to maximising learning outcomes for students, particularly to shift their initial learning of English into the consolidation and academic language development phases.

The ongoing effects of COVID lockdowns, extreme weather events and the intersectional disadvantage suffered by many in our CALD students requires a long-term, well-resourced recovery plan.

Federation is pursuing the implementation of the Gallop Inquiry recommendations for systemic change to better address the complex learning and psycho-social needs of our CALD students. Our campaign objectives include securing improved staffing for identified student need and the additional support teachers require to meet these needs.

The union will continue to work towards overcoming the challenges that impede inclusivity and deny our CALD students the support and permanent specialist staffing they need.

Federal funding for education must return to focusing on equity and the funding of every public school to the full school resourcing standard. State funding must increase to target identified need with additional qualified EAL/D permanent staffing. Federation is committed to pursuing this additional resourcing.