Friendship & acceptance thrive with unique buddy system designed for EAL students

Friendship is at the heart of school life. Friends are fun, supportive and kind, and it is no different at Oriel Academy. Yet, for children who may find themselves in an unfamiliar setting, making friends can sometimes be daunting.

Oriel’s buddy system aims to help build friendships and confidence, specifically designed for EAL (English as an Additional Language) students.

Not only does the child develop a friendship with their buddy, they are also able to model their language.

The buddy system is part of Oriel’s efforts to support EAL children throughout their school life – and what incredible efforts these are! At Oriel, 77% of KS2 EAL students achieved the expected standard or higher in reading, writing and maths combined, compared to 65% of EAL students nationally.

Thanks to programmes like the buddy system, EAL students thrive during their time at Oriel Academy.

Ashwini Parulekar, Higher Level Teaching Assistant at Oriel Academy, said: “When a new student joins us who struggles with English, we pair them with a more articulate student who becomes their buddy.

“This allows a friendship to form straight away which helps the EAL student feel more settled in knowing there is someone they can rely on.

“They work together, play together and spend most of the day together. There is never any pressure for them to do so, but naturally they gravitate towards each other because the EAL student feels comfortable with their buddy.”

Reception class twins Sonia and Paula with their buddy Fardosa.

Importantly, the buddy system offers more than just a friend – it offers EAL students the chance to better their communication skills too.

Ashwini explained: “A key part of the buddy system is that the EAL student is always partnered with a more articulate speaker.

“This means that where the EAL student may struggle with communicating in English, they can model the language of their buddy.

“Their buddy helps them learn the right words and phrases to say by simply spending time together and modelling the correct language.

“They help with everything – numbers, letters, talking. They even help the EAL student learn how to spell their own name.

“Because of their buddy, we see significant improvements in the language development and confidence of EAL students. The improvements are usually apparent after just a couple of months, depending on the level of English that the student held prior to starting.”

Reception student Rishik spelling his name with buddy Haydon.

When selecting a suitable buddy, staff look out for those who also model good behaviour. Ashwini explained:

“The chosen buddy is always someone who can be a good role model in general.

“Not only do they model their language, but they model how to make good choices, how to interact with others and how to do routine activities too.

“The EAL student usually views their buddy as a role model who they can rely on in every aspect of school life. The buddies typically remain good friends for the remainder of their time at Oriel.”

The more time the pair spend together, the stronger their friendship becomes.

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