A More Multicultural Golden Square PS.
Like most of Bendigo, Golden Square Primary School had little experience of multiculturalism beyond families with a strong Anglo-Saxon background. Then in 2007, a young Chinese girl arrived at our school, literally having arrived from China the previous day. This young girl taught us many things that were a testament to her unwavering resilience and an amazing willingness to adapt to a totally and foreign environment.
It was not long before more professional families began to arrive in Bendigo and enrol their children in our local schools. For the most part, these children and at least one parent spoke English quite well and they integrated quite seamlessly into the broader community.
The biggest change came in late 2009 and 2010, when the school had its first influx of Karen (Burmese) refugees. Ten students enrolled on the Maple St campus and were supported with both an ESL (English as a Second Language) teacher and a MEA (Multicultural Education Aide). The school was also in a position to involve the students in days that were set up especially for these students to participate in. At this point, the school was on a huge learning curve and relied strongly on the support of the regional ESL advisor to assist. Barry Goode hopped on a plane with “Team China” and flew to China . This brought about the beginning of a new sister school relationship and cemented our ties with Team China.
In 2011, Golden Square hosted 10 year 5 students from China for an eight week homestay. The homestay program generated enormous interest from the community and BSSC began to offer Chinese Language sessions through its Confucius Room program. This program included about a dozen grades 5 and 6 students from both campuses who shared a bus with Specimen Hill PS into the Confucius Room each fortnight. Juncai Lin came to the Maple St campus on the alternate weeks to provide more language and cultural experiences. At half year and again at the end of the year, these students gave presentations to the community highlighting their language and cultural learning.
More Karen refugees arrived and the ESL program was extended. ESL became EAL (English as an Another Language). However, the MEA program became more difficult to maintain as demand for our MEA as a community translator meant that he was often unable to attend the planned sessions.
In 2012, the Confucius Room program expanded to include 20 grades 5 and 6 students who had expressed interest in learning Chinese. We continued to share a bus fortnightly to access the Confucius Room and had follow up language sessions with June Featherstone of BSSC. The end of each semester provided a wonderful opportunity for the children to showcase their many language and cultural learnings. Towards the end of 2012, a small team worked to put together a planned LOTE curriculum pathway for students moving from primary to secondary schooling. The push was on for the four local government secondary colleges to offer Chinese as one of their LOTE subjects in year 7. BSSC began to source teachers from the Hanban Institute in China to teach (under supervision) in our local schools. Despite visa issues, delays and set-backs, the program finally got underway towards the end of the year.
We continued to receive a small influx of new EAL/refugee families into the school. By this stage, we had all but given up on the MEA program and relied heavily on the funding received when the students first arrived at our school to fund our EAL teacher. To assist our teachers we embarked on a targeted professional development program which focussed primarily on helping teachers work with their EAL students within the classroom context. Once again, we relied heavily on support from Rosaly McNamara our Regional Support Person to deliver the much needed professional learning.
2013 saw the big move, with all students attending the one campus from day one. For the most part, our EAL students were allocated to teachers who had some training in EAL classroom support. Once again we experienced another increase in EAL/refugee enrolments. Times were tough as the promised funding was slow to arrive, and our formal EAL program commenced late in the year. Team China continued to push along with another School Leadership trip to China in May-June. I was fortunate to visit some amazing schools in Suzhou Industrial Park and spent some happy times visiting our sister school. It was on this trip that plans really started to take shape for the possibility of bringing students across to China in 2014.
Back home, it wasn’t long before Team China became part of the Leading Asia in the 21st Century Conference. After attending the conference with colleagues, it was apparent that Team China is one of the foremost teams in enhancing Asian Literacy in the state, if not, the country!
At school, the multicultural banner was flying proudly! We were able to access more local programs to broaden our curriculum. The students in grades 3 and 4 took part in the CADAS (Cultural Awareness Development At Schools) program which was run over a series of weeks. We were offered the services of the Hanban teachers and allocated Chinese Mandarin as our LOTE for all our grade 6 students. Two Chinese teachers come into the school every week to deliver the program.
In term 4, we welcomed 4 Chinese students to our school community for their eight week homestay experience. Once again, the homestay program was a fantastic success and generated enormous interest within the local community. Team China ensured that firm plans were put into place for a student travel program in May/June 2014. Expressions of interest in the program were called for and the first information sessions were held for prospective travellers. Before the end of the year, our student travellers had been selected and Erin Salm was on her way as well.
2014 has begun with a lot of promise! Our school entered another new phase with refugees from Afghanistan arriving for the first time. Our EAL program has continued to thrive and has the potential to grow, Team China’s Overseas Learning Experience for our primary aged students is well advanced, CADAS has run two days with ten of our school leaders, two teachers have been off to professional learning to help us include a more multicultural perspective in our curriculum, Chinese Mandarin is up and running and we have just been allocated a new MEA one day a week!
Golden Square Primary School looks forward to continuing to develop its multicultural programs and supporting the wonderful students and families who have chosen to call Australia home.