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Section 11 support is not enough

Doug McAvoy, general secretary of the National Union of Teachers, has highlighted the inherent inconsistencies of Section 11 funding arrangements (TES, January 12). This funding has not been consistently effective because little has been done to ensure its responsiveness to need. The short-termness of its allocations in competitive rounds of bidding has ignored the stark reality that the needs of ethnic minority pupils are not going to disappear at a stroke when Section 11 projects come to an end. Pupils who are learning English as an additional language require five to seven years to acquire academic proficiency.

What is lacking is a national approach to the whole issue of English as an additional language. Currently there are no national criteria to measure bilingual pupils' acquisition of English language skills to enable staff to target Section 11 support more precisely.

The funding regulations insist on monitoring procedures which to all intents and purposes are but number-crunching exercises. There is little emphasis on qualitative appraisal of Section 11 support. Inspections by the Office for Standards in Education sometimes give conflicting messages to schools regarding the deployment and effectiveness of Section 11 support.

If we are serious about making the curriculum accessible to ethnic minority pupils by breaking down language barriers, we need to ensure continuity and consistency in funding, otherwise the issue will remain marginalised.

SEHDEV BISMAL

38 Woodfield Heights

Tettenhall

Wolverhampton, West Midlands

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