Schools struggle with demand for ESL classes

NSW schools are struggling to cope with a massive 62% increase in students who require English as a Second Language (ESL) courses.

The data, collated by the Education Department’s Multicultural Policies and Services Program Report, showed the increase had occurred over a three year period.

The report added that despite the higher demand for ESL classes, the number of full-time ESL teachers has remained unchanged since 2009.

The spike in demand for ESL classes has prompted a call for action by the NSW Teachers Federation (NSWTF), which says the needs of many ESL students across the state “had been neglected for years”.

However, the Department of Education and Communities (DEC) is optimistic that extra Gonski funding will provide a better level of support for ESL students, also known as English as an Additional Language or Dialect (EALD).

"The EALD staffing positions, as well as this additional flexible funding, means 145,000 students in 1,250 public schools will receive additional support," a department spokesman said.

"In 2015, for the first time, every student identified as needing assistance to develop proficiency in English language will receive support through the new model of support to schools."

In an article published on The Conversation’s website, Misty Adoniou wrote that ESL students were often the most advantaged learners in schools, saying bilingual brains were “more flexible, more creative, and better at problem solving.”

“Through neglect, we kill the languages children bring with them into Kindergarten - essentially a free natural resource - whilst simultaneously trying to introduce new languages in the final years of schooling. This strategy is illogical, expensive and has a long record of failure,” Adoniou wrote.

Despite the increased demand for ESL classes, Education Minister, Adrian Piccoli, said ESL resources for schools would remain unchanged.

However, Piccoli denied this meant that the Government was turning a blind eye to the issue, insisting that principals will be allowed to make the decisions which will “best meet the needs of their students.” 

''We are not reducing available resources but allowing principals, in consultation with their school communities, to make more decisions to best meet the needs of their students,'' Piccoli said.