Northern Ireland news

Teachers to be trained in inter-cultural education

Sianeese Maybin, Ksawery Swist, Adam Jankowski and Katie Campbell St Brigid's PS, Ballymena. Picture by Mal McCann

Teachers have praised new training courses designed to promote inter-cultural education.

Launched by the Department of Education, the courses will be available from September through Open Learning at Queen's University. They are aimed at teaching and classroom support staff working with `newcomer' pupils in primary and post-primary schools.

The term newcomer is used to refer to a child who has enrolled in a school but who does not have satisfactory language skills to participate fully in the curriculum and does not have a language in common with the teacher.

In recent years, schools in the north have been experiencing a steady growth in their enrolment of children from various parts of the world. Polish children are the largest newcomer group, followed by Lithuanian and Portuguese pupils.

Some schools have a very high proportion of newcomer children. They include St Brigid's PS in Ballymena where about one third of its 350 pupils are from Poland.

The department says the increase in overseas children has enriched the diversity of schools, their cultural perspectives and has significantly changed the range of languages spoken.

The Ulster Teachers' Union (UTU) said the migrant population played an important role in schools bringing a degree of diversity which was not present before, "enriching the educational experience for all our pupils".

"Migrant children account for 12,000 pupils in our schools and bring with them 70 languages and it would be shameful if those children and their families were not to feel as safe as we would want to feel were we living in their country," said UTU general secretary Avril Hall Callaghan.

"Indeed the growing number of children from migrant worker families has boosted classes in some schools which were in danger of closing due to falling pupil numbers.

"The racist attacks we hear about, however, highlight the very real need for a united approach to this issue in our wider communities.We are all committed to promoting anti-racism and equality in schools and believe it is important to demolish myths surrounding migrant workers."

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