Baffled by closure plans

3rd June 2011 at 01:00

The proposal to close the Bilingual Support Unit at Shawlands Academy (TESS, 20 May) would break up a blended service which is the envy of Europe.

The BSU has been praised by HMIE for providing an academically challenging, secure and nurturing environment in which learners with little or no English can develop their language skills until they are able to access the curriculum in their local mainstream secondary. While many of these learners have transferable skills, others have no literacy in their home language or have social, emotional and behavioural needs.

Such diverse needs cannot be met by class teachers faced with increased class sizes, fewer resources and the challenges of a new curriculum. Neither can they be met by a peripatetic service whose dedicated staff are only able to visit isolated pupils at best for two periods per week.

Critics say that units do not support inclusion; the primary language unit was disbanded in 2009. But primary classes provide cohesive and nurturing environments in which one class teacher can observe, assess and support learning. This is not the case in secondary schools. Placing newly-arrived migrants directly into a mainstream school without dedicated support and consistency of teaching in one place would mean inclusion in physical terms only.

Glasgow City Council states that the planned closures are in response to the withdrawal of the #163;186,000 UK Borders Agency contract, when in fact these savings have already been made through retirements and streamlining of management structures.

Glasgow teachers are left baffled as to the rationale behind the proposals. We can only hope that when the council presents the BSU with an award for Excellence in International Education on 22 June, it will have decided not to fix that which is not broken.

Name and address withheld.

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