Whole Sector Inclusive Language Policy
From December 2019 to March 2020 I carried out a review of EAL provisions for the Jersey education department (Children, Young People, Education and Skills). Based on the cross-sector data I collected, I made a series of recommendations for their consideration. The first recommendation that I made was to create a whole-sector language policy. Jersey is small system, and as such, it makes sense to create a common language policy and cohesive approach. As much as it made sense, no one was more surprised than I was when Lesley Stagg (Senior Adviser at the time) gave the project the green light!
More than slightly daunted by leading the initiative, together with Lesley we created a Language Policy Working Group which included people from across the sector (EY, primary, secondary, FE) as well as the advisers for Mathematics, Literacy, Early Years, and Jèrriais). The vision was to create a fully inclusive language policy that addressed all varieties of language and level of learner, and could drive good practice across the Island. Here is the Director of Education, Seán O'Regan, introducing the Language Policy.
Our working group met regularly for knowledge building sessions for several months. They had a lot to learn about language policies and I had a lot to learn about the Jersey education system! The process of writing the first draft took four months, and a lot of editing, but was a truly collaborative effort. Once the draft was finalised it went through a series of internal approvals and edits, while we all held our breath! By July, we had approval for the final version, and in September 2021 we took the language policy to public consultations for feedback. During this process I met with teachers, headteachers, parents, community language groups, students, the Jèrriais-speaking community, and representatives of various sectors in education. With the feedback from these groups, the Language Policy for Jersey Education was finalised. You can find the policy in full here.
Leading the development of the language policy was incredibly rewarding, and it is a document of significant merit. Nonetheless, writing the language policy was only the first step. In order for it to have any impact, massive educational change needed to be planned and implemented. The full impact of the language policy won't be felt for many years, but here are some significant highlights that are currently underway as a direct result of the language policy:
The whole system is adopting the language of the policy, with learners being designated as 'MLL' (Multilingual Learners) if they speak a language beyond English, and EAL is now a temporary provision that some MLL receive. This distinction is important to ensure that students do not lose the identified characteristic of being multilingual if they do not need EAL support.
A position was created in the central team for a Languages Adviser, who will support the full implementation of the Language Policy, working with advisers for EAL/MLL, world languages teachers, and the Jèrriais Teaching Service.
The former peripatetic EAL service has been restructured with EAL being provided in schools starting in September 2022, and the new central team is now the Multilingual Learner Advisory Service (MLL Advisory Service).
All schools will have a Multilingual Learner Lead in place by September 2022.
A longitudinal, three-tiered programme of professional development is being rolled out across the Island from September 2022.
All schools have adopted the Bell Assessment Framework and Proficiency in English (PIE) is report termly and used to allocate budget/provisions effectively and track progress and impact.
These are just a few of the intiatives that are directly linked to the language policy. In addition, the project and policy are expanding in scope, and working with other government services (Youth Services, EYFS, FE) and the charitable sector to develop and support a wide range of connected projects/programmes/initiatives that will further enhance the full inclusion of languages as a key feature for children and young people across the Island.
Over the last two years I have been in turn amazed and overwhelmed by how this project has been received by the vast majority of people I have met with across the Island. From the top of the education service and through into the community, by and large there is a strong will to change the educational experiences and outcomes of students with EAL across the Island. This policy firmly situates all languages as equal in the education system, with Jèrriais and home languages accorded equal status to English and French. It challenges schools to consider their social and linguistic landscape, to make innovative choices in what languages to teach, whether than means choosing Jèrriais, Portuguese, or Polish, and to ensure quality provision of EAL programming. It is creating a community of leadership across the Island with the new MLL Leads, and committing to full equity and inclusion for all students and their languages. I take my hat off to the educators and administrators in Jersey for this truly bold and ground-breaking work, and I thank them for letting me walk with them on this journey.
Mèrcie bein des fais, obrigada, dziękuję, mulțumesc, merci
And to close, the voices of the children in Jersey schools:
Special thanks to our Language Policy Working Group: Lesley Stagg; Richard Merhet; Ben Spink; Caroline Whitehead; Julie McAllister; Andy Parkinson; Jo Terry-Marchant/Carol Tyrer; Sam Losh; Colette O'Brien