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    Personal Story


    Catherine Scheffer
    Year 12 Siena College, Camberwell

    Along with six other Siena students and two teachers, I embarked on an immersion to South Africa for two weeks last year, living with a host family while learning of the history and culture of the country. 

    I noticed that despite all the hardships of the women of Kopanang, they were some of the happiest people I had ever met. The children stood out in particular for me; happy over the slightest of things. 

    For example, the other students and I brought balloons, pencils and stickers, which had them ecstatic for days on end. 

    This ability to draw happiness from poverty and quite often, hunger and pain, motivated me to produce a series of drawings under the title Happy Sadness which will be featured in the 2015 Visual Arts Display during Catholic Education Week. 

    A young boy named Tyron, who was a member of my host family, personally inspired me as he was always happy despite the conditions he lived in. I grew very close to Tyron, as well as having a strong connection to other children I encountered.

    It was after my time at Kopanang that I realised how much we take for granted; food, water, safety, education and much more. 

    Without knowing the children it is impossible to depict their current state of poverty. These children’s facial expressions show us that money is not the key to happiness. 

    It is my duty to tell my Siena school community that ‘happiness can be found in the darkest of times, if one only remembers to turn on the light.’  

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    Student Learning Needs

    Student Learning Needs encompasses the following areas:


    English as an Additional Language – New Arrivals program

    General Overview

    The English as an Additional Language (EAL) – New Arrivals program, with its related initiatives, provides targeted financial, consultancy and professional learning support. This support enhances teachers’ capacity to ensure sustainable improvement in the learning outcomes of newly arrived students who have English as an Additional Language (EAL). In 2014, funding was sought for 255 new arrival students and 1,030 recently enrolled refugee background students in the Archdiocese of Melbourne.

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    Main Activities

    EAL – New Arrivals initiatives in 2014 included:

    Refugee Support Strategies

    The CEOM implemented a range of strategies to assist teachers to address the educational and trauma needs of the increasing number of refugee background students in Catholic schools. Additional funding enabled schools to employ refugee support teachers, multicultural aides and release for teachers to participate in professional learning facilitated by the New Arrivals team. 

    Professional Learning for teachers

    A range of professional learning opportunities were provided for leadership teams and teachers working with EAL/New Arrival/Refugee students facilitated by the New Arrivals team.

    Sponsored study (University of Melbourne) Primary Secondary Total
    Professional Certificate in English as an Additional Language – (EAL/ESL) 9 9 18
    Teaching ESL students in mainstream classrooms teacher development course. 4 9 13
    EAL Developmental Continuum P–10 311   311
    Supporting Allocated New Arrival Teachers 21   21

    TEAL PROJECT (Tools to Enhance Assessment Literacy (TEAL) for Teachers of English as an Additional Language) 2012–2015.

    The Department of Education and Training (DET), in partnership with the Catholic Education Commission of Victoria Ltd (CECV) and Independent Schools Victoria (ISV), has commissioned the University of New South Wales to develop an e-based toolkit of assessment tools and advice. This will assist teachers in developing pedagogically sound and useful approaches to assessing the English language development of ESL/EAL students and providing reliable data to inform effective school-based monitoring and planning.  

    In 2014, the New Arrivals team supported teachers from 16 Catholic primary and 8 Catholic secondary schools in the final phase of the project, providing trialling and feedback of TEAL reading, writing and oral assessment tools. Four hundred and thirty EAL students from 17 Catholic schools also participated in the first trial of an online computer-adaptive reading and vocabulary assessment tool. The launch of the final materials will occur in June 2015. 

    EAL – New Arrivals Program

    The CECV New Arrivals program was regionally based to allow school advisers (New Arrivals) to provide consultancy and professional learning support to schools to meet the settlement and educational needs of newly arrived students who have English as an Additional Language.

    A grant allocation was made to primary schools, with eligible, newly arrived, EAL students to employ a teacher to work on a sessional basis with the students. Eligible students are entitled to 6–12-months intensive English tuition in the mainstream school setting. This allocation is arranged through the Education Officer (New Arrivals Eligible secondary students are strongly encouraged to attend a local Department of Education and Early Childhood Development (DEECD) language centre/school before entering the mainstream Catholic secondary school. The language centre/school is able to provide intensive English language learning support for a minimum of six months.

    School advisers also supported schools to meet the complex settlement and long-term educational needs of the growing number of recently enrolled refugee background students in Catholic schools. An additional allocation of funding was distributed by the CECV Grants Allocation Committees (Primary and Secondary) in 2014, per refugee student who had enrolled at the school in 2012, 2013 and 2014. This allocation was used to fund initiatives and programs in the school, which supported all refugee background students.

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    Key Events

    Mercy Connect Refugee Volunteer Thank you Celebration

    The New Arrivals (EAL) team hosted the Mercy Connect Refugee Volunteer thank you celebration on 25 November 2014.

    Mercy Connect is a project of Mercy Works, which is a ministry of the Sisters of Mercy, Australia and PNG. The Mercy Connect Project, in partnership with the Catholic Education Office Melbourne, used the extensive educational experiences of trained volunteers to provide additional in-school support and mentoring to refugee/asylum seeker students as they settled into the Australian educational setting.

    The program began in 2011 and now has 120 volunteers working on a weekly basis in 8 Catholic secondary schools and 17 Catholic primary schools with approximately 630 refugee students.

    ACTA International TESOL Conference 2014

    The New Arrivals (EAL) team presented a number of sessions alongside Catholic schools at the international Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) Conference held in Melbourne in October 2014. Over 350 leaders, teachers, researchers and experts from around the world gathered to discuss and celebrate how they are endeavouring to ‘Meet the Challenge’ of a globalising world in which all societies need to embrace pluralism.

    These sessions were:

    • Addressing the educational needs of recently enrolled refugee students in mainstream classrooms (P–10) – School Outcomes:
      • St Dominic’s School, Broadmeadows
      • St Brendan’s School, Shepparton
      • Sacred Heart School, Fitzroy.
    • ‘A Journey of Hope,’ an insight into the Iraqi–Christian refugee experience and their settlement experience into a Catholic primary school.
      • Good Samaritan Catholic Primary School, Roxburgh Park.
    • Catering for the language and literacy needs of EAL students in mainstream primary classrooms.
      • Sacred Heart School, St Albans.

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