I teach them like a parent would

1st February 2008 at 00:00

With 40 Polish pupils, Harborne Hill School in Birmingham can afford a teacher who speaks the language.

But it is harder for neighbouring primaries with only one, two or perhaps three Polish pupils. The solution? Harborne is sharing its Polish teacher, Damian Topczewski (pictured left), using video-conferencing technology.

A Birmingham council project, Athena, pays part of his wages and bears the cost of the Polycom technology. "The new country is a shock for the children," says Mr Topczewski, 25, who came here from Poland two years ago. "Everything is new for them. And their parents cannot help, which is a shocking realisation for a child. So I try to help them like a parent would."

He sometimes visits the primaries, but more often he links up with them by video-conference. They also use the technology to communicate with a school in Poland, so pupils learn about Polish language and culture as well as English.

Athena is also financing a Spanish-speaking teacher who will begin working with three primaries in the city at Easter.

Photograph: Roy Kilcullen.

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