New kids on the Bloc

29th February 2008 at 00:00

We have about a dozen Polish pupils in our school and I wanted a better understanding of their background and culture. I am responsible for attendance and was particularly concerned that some were missing days. I learnt from this course that there is less emphasis on perfect attendance in Poland, and you have to work hard to help new arrivals understand what is required.

The course leader was outstanding. She was Polish, so spoke with first- hand experience about the problems involved in moving to a new country. If children just sit silently in lessons, then don't be too concerned or put pressure on them. It is perfectly normal to go through a quiet phase.

It can be tempting to get older Polish pupils to help out younger ones - but this must not eat into their own learning time. There was excellent advice on dealing with parents. It is normal for them to be over- protective when they are new to a country and unsure of the language.

There were lots of resources and printed materials, and we were even given some standard school letters translated into Polish.

I became aware of cultural differences I had not considered. In Polish schools, teachers are authoritarian. There is a danger that if you use too much English politeness, children will see it as weakness. So instead of saying "Perhaps it might be a good idea not to run in the corridor", you might have to be more direct and just say no.

Pam Lythe is attendance and pastoral support manager at Cardinal Heenan Catholic High School in Leeds. She was talking to Steven Hastings.

The details

Polish Pupils, British Schools is run by Osiris Educational and takes place in Solihull on March 12 and June 23, London on March 17 and June 27, Leeds on June 16 and Manchester on June 20. Cost pound;259 plus VAT.

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