Integration improves bond between students

Koondoola Primary School in Perth’s north has eliminated the separation between Intensive English Centre and mainstream classes in an effort to create a harmonious learning environment for all students.

IEC and mainstream classes were previously divided into separate areas within the school.

Classes are now alongside each other to unify students in the same year group.

IECs provide a specialist 12-month English language program to newly arrived migrant and refugee students learning English.

They are in eight primary schools, four high school and two senior schools.

Koondoola deputy principal and IEC teacher Glenys Cunningham said IEC students were taught the same compulsory subjects as mainstream students, including English, maths, science, art and physical education.

Most IEC schools offer basic integration with mainstream students, mostly limited to recess and lunch times together, whole school assemblies, excursions and incursions.

Apart from adjacent classrooms, Koondoola Primary School has also increased integration by allowing IEC and mainstream classes to participate in most school activities together, including interschool sports, school choirs and school counsellor positions.

Mrs Cunningham said it was very rewarding to see how far students had come since their first day at the IEC.

“Most of them were very shy when they first arrived because they didn’t know how to communicate with the other children, but now we can’t get them to stop talking,” she said.

According to the latest Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development migrant education review, a whole-school integration approach is essential to provide support for migrant students not only in specialised courses but across the curriculum and throughout all-school and after-school activities.

The report also found migrants were more likely to have a stronger sense of belonging at school and be bullied less when they were integrated with mainstream students.

Koondoola principal Ian Ralph said the creation of “buddy classes” has helped IEC and mainstream students establish a stronger bond by engaging in shared lessons and activities.

“The students are very accepting and welcoming of each other and never make each other feel out of place,” he said.

“However, some parents are worried that more integration will make their children too attached to other students by the time they have to exit the IEC program.”

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