Flintshire teachers aim to boost migrant integration and understanding
A Welsh county is ensuring a "welcome in the hillside" for an influx of Polish pupils.
Two teachers from Flintshire's English as an additional language (EAL) service spent last week at a primary school in Elblag, Poland, to learn more about the education system. The visit, says the local authority, will help teachers understand Polish pupils better.
Educating teachers about the Polish schools system and culture is also being seen as a way of improving integration of migrant families into the North Wales community.
Susan Hughes and Janet Vokes observed lessons and discussed the Polish curriculum and assessment methods during the trip to the school, Skola Podstawowa nr 1 w Gronowie Gornym.
They also helped to teach English lessons and saw the daily routines in Polish primary schools, as well as sharing experiences of school life in Wales, using photographs and written work by their own Polish pupils.
On their return, they were busy briefing teachers in the local authority over their findings.
The number of Polish children enrolling in the county's mainstream schools has almost doubled during the current academic year.
The EAL service gives teachers access to resources and details of courses and publications. It also promotes good practice, helping teachers and contributing to curriculum policy.
North-east Wales has seen a huge influx of Polish families. One estimate suggested there are up to 12,000 migrant workers in Flintshire, mostly employed in semi-skilled and unskilled jobs in manufacturing and food processing industries.
But the strain on school budgets means that EAL pupils do not always have their language or social needs met. A recent report by the North Wales Race Equality Network claimed half of all migrant workers were not getting an adequate level of support, including at schools.
A council spokesman said: "It is hoped the knowledge gained will help teachers in Flintshire to provide appropriate education for pupils newly arrived from EU countries such as Poland.
"We also hope it will encourage schools to embrace and develop the European dimension afforded them by having EAL pupils in their classes. The service is aware of the need to respond to the ever-changing cultural diversity of pupils within Flintshire schools.
"Seventy per cent of the pupils currently being given support have come from the EU accession countries. There has never been a better time to build educational links with countries such as Poland."
The visit was funded by the British Council under the Comenius scheme.
THE FACTS ABOUT POLISH EDUCATION
Children don't start school until age six, sometimes seven.
The Polish education system was reformed in 1999. Primary school was shortened from eight to six years. Secondary school was also split. Lower secondary - ages 13 to 16 - is called the gymnasium, followed by upper secondary, which has several educational routes.
Easter is a huge celebration for Polish schoolchildren compared with the UK, with plenty of egg-painting.
June 20 is National Children's Day, when the children are spoilt.
During partitions of Poland and in the Second World War, much of the country's education was carried out in secret.
The Mantura is the rough Polish equivalent of the UK's A-level.
The most popular foreign language taught in Poland is English, followed by German.
Education in the People's Republic of Poland improved literacy levels, but history and economics teaching was blighted by Communist propaganda.
Left, Krakow in Poland. Photograph: Alamy.