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Spotlight on visual aids

Peony Hutchinson is a Section 11 teacher working for South-west Hertfordshire Language and Curriculum Support Centre. A native speaker of three Chinese languages, she has for several years been giving bilingual support during national curriculum tests to a small number of Chinese children.

"There is a need for more visual aids. I've found that while a lot of children are capable of doing the maths and science tests at key stage 1, the language that the instructions are written in is difficult," she says. Ms Hutchinson suggests that where there is no language support in the exams, it would be particularly helpful for bilingual children if there was an illustration of what is required of them, for example in sorting shapes, rather than looking at words they don't understand.

"Tests require preparation and foresight on the part of language support teachers. Class teachers will have an idea of what is required to help children after the first lot of tests and will make a point of giving special attention to certain areas," she explains.

"For instance, last spring I helped a Chinese boy doing his Year 6 science tests. Before the exam, we applied for extra time for him and I was also allowed to help him with his writing of certain words. I was able to explain what the questions were asking of him, even though I wasn't allowed to explain concepts such as 'condensation' or 'evaporation'. Being able to tackle the papers with everyone else gives a real lift to bilingual children."

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