An observation at Uplands Junior School took place on November the 17th, where seven children were taken out of the literacy hour to be taught basic English skills. The children were of ethnic minority background and had newly arrived into the country with very little skills in English. This type of isolation from the classroom is commonly known as a withdrawal group and can sometimes be seen as negative because the children are not being involved in inclusive teaching, which is the whole class being taken together.
However, schools work differently to one another so the word withdrawal can be misunderstood depending on the context. Therefore the following will be a discussion into the interpretations of the word withdrawal and inclusive teaching in comparison to two quite similar but different schools. English as an Additional Language (EAL) support was first introduced by Section 11 in 1991 all across schools in England, extra money was funded to schools in order to employ specialised language teachers who would provide basic English skills in the form of grammar, vocabulary and spelling through separate lessons during literacy time.
These children were withdrawn in small groups of 6-8 children everyday for the whole of literacy and some extra time in the afternoon, no set curriculum or lesson plans were followed. Through personal experience memories include children being taken away from the norm and made to feel different of which other children including myself almost felt embarrassed for them. They were clearly differentiated and labelled as being at the lowest level academically. This gives the true definition to the word ‘withdrawal’ in the negative sense.
However, schools have very much developed since then and are now funded by the Ethnic Minority Achievement Grant (EMAG). Children are still being withdrawn from classes to be given that extra literacy support, but it is now preferred to be called ‘inclusivity’ rather than ‘withdrawal’. This was explained further during a case study in to a school similar to Uplands; this school is called Medway Community Primary School and is based in the same area as Uplands but consists of different ethnic minority groups. Both schools are funded in very similar ways to one another spend it in different ways.
The specialist language tutor at Medway explained that they spend less money on paying for teachers and more money on teaching assistant staff, every class is provided with one at all times so children can be supported within the class. However, she mentioned that although it was manageable to include these children in most lessons by using games, realia, and differentiated tasks it was hard to do this during literacy as children would not understand the language without being taught in a manner that was easier to grasp and understand.
Children would feel insecure, uncomfortable and unmotivated to work in a class where they felt daunted. Withdrawing them allows them to feel comfortable with what they are learning as they are around other children at the same level making the same mistakes; children are not afraid to have a go and can feel motivated. This is supported by the Minority Ethnic Language and Achievement Service (Forest Lodge Education Centre.
Working with Children New to English), they say “Children must have the confidence to feel they can ‘have a go’, feelings of embarrassment and the fear of ridicule can quickly lead to a situation where low self esteem creates the expectation of continued failure” this supports withdrawal in the sense it is including the child into the school. During the withdrawal session children are still seen as being involved in inclusive teaching as their EAL tutors follow the same curriculum of which the plans are set by the teacher and are followed in the same way as the class.
This means that at Medway the children will be learning exactly the same thing as the children in the class, doing the same types of activities and reading the same books, the only difference is the usage of large texts, big books and games and having a teacher to explain using methods easier to understand. Another positive outcome of having the EAL children withdrawn is that Teaching Assistants can be used to support the next group in need so a varied range of children get supported.
Uplands Junior School adopt a different approach to withdrawal teaching whereby children are only withdrawn for one term after they arrive. The Language Support Teachers at Uplands have devised a whole programme for new arrivals and this is made up of activities that teach children basic skills in English so that after a term they can start fending for themselves and build on the knowledge they have. The only problem with this is that this programme does not provide inclusive teaching when the children are eventually put back in to the class, and can start to feel excluded if they do not understand the work.
During the observation session here , children felt very comfortable, were able to answer questions and were very much learning about language items that would be taught lower down in the school, it is hard to understand how these children catch up enough to do work on much harder things without getting continual support. In conclusion, the whole point of withdrawal teaching is based on not isolating the child from their peers but trying to include them as much as possible.
The word ‘withdrawal’ should be referred to as ‘inclusivity’, because in both the schools children are taken out in order to feel comfortable with what they are learning and get used to the change of culture and environment. The Medway theory on withdrawal allows the child to be taken out every literacy session for up to two years but this is not isolating the child from the class because the same plan, activity and methods are used and set by the teacher so that the child does not miss out on any learning.
When they are put back in the class they will be at a similar level to others. This was evident through a case study in to this school. Uplands although different in the structure of these sessions still provide enough knowledge so that when the child is put back in to the class they can cope with a minimal amount. Overall, withdrawal is necessary initially and not a bad thing if carried over a longer period of time as long as the schools try and integrate the children as much as possible.