Bartek's challenge

6th July 2007 at 01:00
(Photograph) - When Bartek (or Bartosz Karaskiewicz) goes into a classroom in Aberdeenshire to support a child, he always tries to say something in their mother tongue. Quite an undertaking, given that across the authority there are 57 different languages spoken by pupils. But he does it to introduce something familiar into an otherwise alien environment.

"The challenge is great for them and it takes a special person to be able to cope," said Bartek. "It's the adults' decision to come here. The child has friends and a place somewhere and suddenly that's lost." Bartek can empathise. He arrived in Scotland in August last year and, in spite of his language skills, he struggled. He had 15 years' experience teaching English, but ended up working as a porter in the Highlands, earning a third of the salary he had in Poland. "There was a massive campaign in Poland: come to Scotland and change your life," he said. "I felt as if I had been invited and there would be a helping hand for me, but there wasn't."

Bartek was ready to fly home defeated in May and even had his flight booked. But then Aberdeenshire Council came calling and instead he joined the English as an Additional Language service. There, Bartek has acted as translator, helped social services and delivered continuing professional development to teachers.

The main difficulty, however, is the volume of work. "The only challenge here is the numbers are really high. There are so many pupils who need our help," he said.

Photograph: Simon Price

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