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to ask this question at parents evening?

(25 Posts)
downtonscullery Tue 13-Nov-12 19:45:19

"How many children in the class have english as a second language"?

The reaction from the teacher was pure horror. She started spluttering that it was nothing to do with her, she's not responsible, I need to speak to the head teacher about it and so on.

I asked the question because I am interested - have noticed newsletters are being circulated in different languages and the school are actively recruiting teaching assistants who speak Polish.

AIBU to think the teacher should have answered the question rather than acting as if I'd made a racist remark?

Sirzy Tue 13-Nov-12 19:47:02

Why does it matter to you? Unless you have concerns with regards to some sort of impact upon your childs education then does it really matter?

Jojay Tue 13-Nov-12 19:48:29

I don't see why it's an unreasonable question. She should have answered it, imho.

Alisvolatpropiis Tue 13-Nov-12 19:49:05

YANBU to have asked if you have concerns that your son's education is being affected.

She reacted oddly,but probably didn't know what to say when put on the spot.

JamieandtheMagicTorch Tue 13-Nov-12 19:49:32

do you have concerns?

I doubt very much it impacts on you. In fact good practice in the classroom for EAL children is good practice for all children, IMO.

If you don't have concerns, or even if you do, you should expect a non-defensive answer

CindySherman Tue 13-Nov-12 19:50:02


seeker Tue 13-Nov-12 19:51:38

If you look on the school's official stats it will tell you how many EAL children there are. But I would question your motives for asking at parent's evening too.

RustyBear Tue 13-Nov-12 19:54:08

It would be a matter of confidentiality - could lead to children being identified as having EAL, which is no one else's business.
The head could, and possibly would, tell you the percentage of children in the school with EAL, but I can't imagine any reason he would have to give that info on a class level to any random parent.

neverquitesure Tue 13-Nov-12 19:54:16

Depends on the context in which it was asked. Why did you ask? And how?

JamieandtheMagicTorch Tue 13-Nov-12 19:55:24

Good point Rusty. You may be right

noblegiraffe Tue 13-Nov-12 19:55:55

As a teacher I'd be a bit wary of sharing this information with parents, as I would if they'd asked me how many children on free school meals were in the class. The percentages of each in the school are publicly available on the DfE site for each school but at a class level it would feel a bit like giving out personal data.

SauvignonBlanche Tue 13-Nov-12 19:56:23

Parents evening are for talking about your child.

lljkk Tue 13-Nov-12 19:56:49

It doesn't sound outrageous question to me.

Wouldn't it be cool if you could have a languages Challenges day, each child getting a chance to teach the others some common words from their own tongue? Get parents involved, too.

Golden opportunity.

nilbyname Tue 13-Nov-12 19:57:23

Why did you ask?

Perhaps it would have been more upfront to ask the question and qualify it. So for example as a parent I might like to know how all the children are mixing and coping with the multi-lingual setting, or how the Polish TAs are used, are they used only to work with Polish children, do they speak exclusively in Polish, or only when required?

JamieandtheMagicTorch Tue 13-Nov-12 19:58:02


lots of schools do that. Have language of the week. Say hello in the language of their choice, for instance.

Knowsabitabouteducation Tue 13-Nov-12 19:59:37

I think it is quite a difficult question for the teacher to answer.

Unless there is an inspection looming, the school may not collect this data, except confidentially. Even if the teacher asks the individual pupils or parents, they may not answer truthfully.

I teach in a school where we are about 50% minority (primarily Indian/Pakistani). I did an official survey among my form group and everyone said that English was the language spoken at home. I knew this wasn't true, from other observations. I don't have any negative experience of ESL, born in Britain, students. They are fluent in English, and have the added responsibility of speaking/interpreting for parents or grandparents.

I think that if an outside parent asks, I would fob them off. Any info about ethnic background is confidential and for monitoring purposes only. If pressed, I will say that our school profile reflects that of the local community.

nkf Tue 13-Nov-12 20:01:30

The % at the school will be on the OFSTED website. The last report. Why did you ask by the way?

downtonscullery Tue 13-Nov-12 20:04:05

I asked because English is actually my dd's second language. I was interested to know how many other children in her class do not speak English as their first language, to see if she is the odd one out? Not sure if I am expessing myself very well, but I certainly wasn't asking the question in a defensive way!

This is a new school for dd so not familiar yet with all the other parents and children.

JamieandtheMagicTorch Tue 13-Nov-12 20:06:37

Aha, hoist by our own petards! smile

Sirzy Tue 13-Nov-12 20:08:14

It would depend on the context you asked then, perhaps asking "has the fact that english isn't her first language caused any issues" or "how is the school supporting the fact that English isn't her first language" would have been more appropriate?

neverquitesure Tue 13-Nov-12 20:12:16

In which case I'd probably have expected the teacher to say something along the lines of "sorry, I can't tell you that, but she's not the only one and we have some very robust support systems in place...etc..."

Perhaps she'd had the question thrown at her in a less positive light earlier in the evening?

juniper904 Tue 13-Nov-12 20:13:47

Why did you want to know?

I would never talk about other children in my class with parents. I am there to discuss their child, not all and sundry.

EAL stages are so open ended anyway. We use a system of 1-4, where by 1 is new to the language and 4 is fluent but still additional language. In my class, I have probably about 9 different languages as EAL. Some of those kids are the highest in Literacy, and it's only year 3, so I don't see why it matters.

I wouldn't tell you either, and I'd be a bit gobsmacked if a parent asked. So YABU.

LadyKinbote Tue 13-Nov-12 20:19:14

YANBU. It's a perfectly reasonable question to ask. I can imagine myself asking if the topic came up. It's good for children to have friends with different home languages. She must have totally mis-read the context and thought you were implying it was a negative thing.

JamieandtheMagicTorch Tue 13-Nov-12 20:19:40


She explained above.

WofflingOn Tue 13-Nov-12 20:19:49

We have a lot of children who are EAL, numerous ones are Young Ambassadors and help new children arriving who share a language. The vast majority are bilingual, or have English as their strongest language. I'd have wanted to know what prompted your question and talked about the languages spoken within the school.
Many of our EAL children are exceptionally good at spelling, maths and regularly leave Y6 with level 5s all round. However, some parents have a level of ignorance about EAL that needs enlightening, including misconceptions about them lowering the levels of achievement within a class.

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