PEI

Refugee students in P.E.I. bring broad range of abilities to class

There are already eight Syrian refugee students in Island classes, and another 15 who have recently arrived may start school as early as next week, P.E.I. education officials said Thursday.

'We've been quite pleased with the response in the school system'

Syrian refugee children are settling in to life in Canada, like this group in British Columbia. (Surrey ELL Welcome Centre)

There are already eight Syrian refugee students in Island classes, and another 15 who have recently arrived may start school as early as next week, P.E.I. education officials said Thursday.

So far the students are all in English schools, mainly in the Charlottetown area, and have been integrated directly into existing classes. 

"The experience so far has been very positive," said Janet Perry-Payne, who administers the province's programs in English and French as additional languages.

Perry-Payne said teachers are often concerned about new students' ability to speak and write in English. 

"We really have seen a broad range of proficiency levels," she said. 

"Everything from, you know, a student who really doesn't have much more than an ability to say hello, to students who are really able to hold good conversations and to move into those classrooms and integrate really well, not only with the students but with the curriculum." 

Janet Perry-Payne from the Department of Education said it has been an adjustment for teachers as well who want to do their very best for the students. (CBC)

The province assesses incoming students in government offices in Charlottetown and helps families register their children for school, usually with an interpreter present. 

The province has come up with a plan to work with large numbers of children who may not have been exposed to English before because of the volume of students expected in the coming months, Perry-Payne said.

"So that perhaps we can give them a leg up so to speak so when they do enter the classroom, they're able to handle it in a better fashion."

Perry-Payne said Island students have been excited to welcome their new classmates. 

"They've been hearing a lot about Syria in the news," she said. "And they're very open and very welcoming once students do arrive. Inquisitive, you know, 'What was it like?'

"So we've been quite pleased with the response in the school system."

With files from Angela Walker

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