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Staff For Whom English Is An Additional Language?


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Just looking for a few opinions!

I have a member of staff who has been working two mornings a week for a year now. She has just completed her EY foundation degree, and is now enrolled to do the top up for the full BA.

In my opinion, she is very competent in all areas, but does sometimes struggle to get a larger group of children to listen/follow instructions. I've always considered this to be a slight lack of confidence and have been gradually introducing opportunities for her to develop both the skill and confidence.

However, she is an Eastern European, and whilst her English is good she does make some grammatical errors and has an accent.


Today i was challenged by a new parent for whose child, the staff member is a Key person to. The parent expressed a concern that her child would not be able to understand the member of staff and would be disadvantaged (the child has said "she speaks funny").


I replied that whilst i understood her concerns, the member of staff was very competent, and that we as a staff had felt that having a teacher for whom English was not her first language actually enriched the nursery environment.


I'm not quite sure where to go now...I suspect that the parent will insist that her child be given another Key person..



Your comments will be much appreciated... I need food for thought!

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Hello there strawberrytwirl, many views but no replies, members are perhaps wondering what they might do in similar circumstances.



There are many reasons that people speak differently, some people speak slower, some people may slur speech or have a lisp or stammer; some people talk very fast; some people have unusual accents. I know I find some accents harder to understand than others, Im sure we all do. I wonder what the parents would say if it were any of these things? Is it just because she is Eastern European that they are making a fuss?

Do you think that this is a racist incident? What does your equal opps policy say about such incidents? (if you feel that it is). In my LA, we have racist reporting forms when a situation arises within a setting that someone may consider to be racist. Do you have a contact at your LA who you can discuss this with?


I think you were absolutely right in explaining to this parent that having a diverse staff is something to celebrate rather than a 'problem'. You can reassure her that children mix with all adults and don't spend time solely with their key person. You can also explaining that children will hear all sorts of ways of speaking in their life time and this is a good thing not a bad thing. And children are remarkably good at understanding different accents and voices. You can also explain that children's understanding of other cultures (which includes language) is an key part of the EYFS.


I also wonder what would your normal policy be on parents choosing different key people? Is it usual for parents to ask for different key people, or is this a first?


Having something like this happen is often a good time to explore your provision to celebrate diversity. Do you have any other children or families (or staff) that speak other languages? If you do, is this a good time to start introducing words in other languages (eg greetings). Children love hearing new words, and they wouldn't be phased by hearing hello in French or Polish or Urdu or whatever.


Finally does the practitioner involved know that this has been said? Obviously you will need to support her too.


It would be good to hear from other members who might have experienced this.

Let us know what you decide to do.

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Hello there strawberrytwirl, many views but no replies, members are perhaps wondering what they might do in similar circumstances.



That's how I felt Mundia. I came back to see what other's had written. I would feel very challenged by the conflict and inferences raised. What would happen if the key worker was from Africa or India and spoke with an accent? The discrimination would then be more obvious. As carers and educators of children who still have flexible ideas about diversity, we all really have a duty to actively challenge discrimination when we recognise it.


Very best of luck, it is a difficult situation,



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Sorry yes I too read and didn't know what to say! Very hard situation for you to deal with, and I still don't know what I would actually say. best of luck

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Thank-you ladies!... I really do appreciate the feedback.


I genuinely feel that this is not a discriminatory situation, (the parent is actually a Romanian/American, I double checked with my member of staff to see if there would be any cultural conflict before assigning her as the key person) but rather a situation where the parent feels that her child's learning will be 'disadvantaged' if she doesn't understand 'instructions' given because of the accent.


The parent has already informed me that her child is exceeding developmental norms, is speaking in full sentences, has well developed communication skills, knows all her colours, can count to at least 10 consistently.... I'm sure you get the picture! I have spoken to the parent about our nursery ethos... talked about developing holistically, about giving children an opportunity to have the space... not just physical space, to socialise, explore and develop independent creative thinking. I also commented that because her daughter was so competent at her communication skills, that perhaps having the key person in question would only enhance those skills, and may also help to keep the child's language receptors open for longer thus making it easier for her to learn another language in future (blagging it a bit there!) I also commented that children sometimes correct me on some words I say ( I'm a northerner)!


I've spent quite a bit of time thinking this over. But have I responded as an early years practitioner....and would i feel differently as a parent?


.... if I go with 'starting from the child' ...I feel that the key person was a good choice...but I think I may have some way to go before I have the full confidence of the mother.



Challenge is a positive thing... and will only benefit practice ... just need to remind myself of that!

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Just wanted to give an update!

I spoke to my member of staff and advised her of the parents concerns.. but also that I had full confidence in her abilities, and that together we would be able assure the parent that her child was progressing appropriately and that the nursery environment was conducive to developing her child's skills and abilities.


I, with agreement from the member of staff, observed her during an activity with the child, and documented the responses. When the parent collected the child, I shared my written observations with her. They demonstrated that the child was able to respond to instructions and also responded appropriately during conversations with her key person.


The key person also carried out a home visit, which she felt was successful. Today the parent came in and said that her child had had a "good time" during the home visit.


So far so good!

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  • 3 weeks later...

I think its good that you supported your member of staff whilst having the conversation with the key person.


I have had a similar situation a few years ago and what we found was that after a while we began to get used to her dialect and we understood as did the children.


After all if i go up north to Lancs I struggle as they do with me and English is our first language!!

Edited by Suer
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