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The Flemington project centres itself on the philosophy of an African proverb, “it takes a village to raise a child”. In a community in Victoria, local schools, charities and government offices came together to investigate a way to improve the integration of refugee families in their area.
As a multifaceted issue, local schools wanted to provide a way to improve the attainment levels of students from these families, many of whom spoke little to no English and had limited schooling before arriving in Australia. The schools also sought to prepare families by offering resources and techniques so the parents could support their children’s progression. The stakeholders recognised that the refugee families could integrate with the community through their children’s schools and focussed the project on tackling the immediate issues the local schools faced, such as supporting secondary age students and preparing infant students.
The solution was to address all of these issues on one web-based platform, so everything was accessible together. They created a custom-built website with tabs linking to interactive ESOL classes provided by the Nisai Virtual Academy, coaching classes for secondary age students and applet videos, both created by local schools. The police and local charities have provided laptops, tablets and PCs to support the families to access the website at home.
A three-pronged Approach
Local schools and services can select the parents they feel would most benefit from the ESOL classes, many of whom are single parents – mothers, with little or no English skills and multiple children. They would simply visit the Flemington website and divert to the Nisai Virtual Academy where they can log on to their ESOL course, learning Basic English through interactive live lessons.
The ESOL course is part of the curriculum offered by the Nisai Virtual Academy, who specialise in supporting students with special educational needs. By accessing their classes from the web-based platform, chosen parents are able to access lessons taught by qualified teachers for an hour a week for 6 months with relative flexibility to study at home. Due to the time difference and the fact all lessons are recorded, the parents can access the classes at home once their children are asleep or at a time that’s more convenient for them.
Coaching Classes for primary and secondary students
Following surveys to the families, many request that they students have access to extra coaching classes, both at primary level and secondary level. The Flemington website will feature online classes in key subject areas as a resource for these students and their parents.
Applets – Learning Together
Part of the website will feature over 50 videos generate by the schools to show video demonstrations and activities that are designed to support parents with integrating into the Australian school system and society. For example some of the videos show how to read to younger children or support them while they do their homework. To make the messages clearer they will be voiced over in Arabic to explain the relevance they have to their children’s learning.
While the focus of the project begins with academic resources, stakeholders are looking to expand to include information that would support the families in other areas, such as Community Health by providing information about vaccines and other available for their children or personal safety to support the Police service.
After a successful initial induction in 2015, the ESOL classes will begin in spring 2016 and the Flemington website in currently being developed.