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The 'Runaway Chapati' stops here

Every week is Refugee Week for a dedicated language service in Hounslow, London. Sharon Breen reports

For the asylum-seekers and refugee children who arrive at Hounslow's schools from the nearby Heathrow airport, The Runaway Chapati is now as familiar as Goldilocks and her three bears.

This week may have been National Refugee Week, but for Ros Carter, head of Hounslow Language Service, which deals with children with 120 different mother tongues, every week is refugee week. And her pioneering work has earned praise in a recent inspectors' report.

She said: "We found that the national materials were somewhat limited in terms of the pupil needs. So the council's language support service and literacy team worked in partnership to adapt them.

"During the pilot project we supplemented the phonic materials available nationally, with oral activities such as retelling stories with puppets or pictures to help non-English speakers. We also tried to ensure that stories reflected children's cultural and bilingual backgrounds."

Hounslow is also leading the way in welcoming refugee parents into the educational life of their child.

At Norwood Greeen junior school, special parents' reading clubs are a regular feature. Rajinder Arora is the senior bilingual advisory teacher.

"The aim is to improve parents' confidence and show we value their skills, knowledge and culture," she says.

"The club also helps to acquaint parents with how the British school system works and what we expect of the children."

Rania Sinjab arrived in England from Syria last September and is a regular member of the club. She feels she gains a lot from being able to read with her son, Mohamed, in both Arabic and English. "My four-year-old also enjoys coming to the club and is starting to take an interest in reading too," she said.

At another Hounslow school, Smallberry Green, language support teacher Amina Hassan organises regular coffee mornings for Somali parents, whose stories she collects and translates.

"We have produced bilingual tapes, displays and books which can be used during literacy hour with the children. I feel confident that involving parents in the national curriculum helps the children gain confidence," she says.

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