MASS immigration into Ireland in the last decade put a strain on schools and one of the new difficulties was dealing with pupils who weren’t fluent in English. However, at St Patrick’s Comprehensive, an after-school English Club was established to help the new arrivals.
The club was set up three years ago and is led by English teachers Mary Collins and Aoife Ryan.
Ms Collins said the aim was to promote the immigrants’ spoken English and to develop their confidence.
“It has given them a bit of confidence. Before, some of them would have been very embarrassed speaking if they had very strong accents and the more understood they are, the more confident they become. In the club there would be up to 20 at one time and it would be half-Irish and half-international students. They just have conversations, chat to each other, hear the pronunciations of words and they integrate.”
For obvious reasons, trying to teach pupils who don’t speak English is tricky.
“It can make it very difficult. Some of the international students coming in would have excellent English, of course, but some of them wouldn’t have had any in first year. They wouldn’t understand you if you talk to them and this arose to help them. By the time some of them got to third year, they had made so much progress,” she said.
Ms Collins also feels that the Irish pupils who were involved in the club benefited from it.
“We would have explained well to them what’s involved and maybe they would have been a bit nervous but it was great for them. Some of them would have been quiet and shy but this encouraged them and their confidence grew.”