Online translated lessons for Ukrainian refugee children

The lessons will be available translated into Ukrainian or Russian, as some refugee pupils will speak Russian as a first language.

Catherine Lough
Friday 11 March 2022 11:58
The lessons will be available translated into Ukrainian or Russian, as some refugee pupils will speak Russian as a first language (Peter Byrne/PA)
The lessons will be available translated into Ukrainian or Russian, as some refugee pupils will speak Russian as a first language (Peter Byrne/PA)

Online lessons will be made available to 100,000 refugee pupils as they transition to “life and safety” in the UK, Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi has announced.

Speaking at the Association of School and College Leaders’ annual conference in Birmingham on Friday, he said: “We will continue to support Ukrainians in any way we can.

“I know schools are doing what they can to support their students make sense of what they are seeing.”

“And we are working with schools to ensure that the tens of thousands of Ukrainian children we will welcome to our shores will have a place in our education system.

“To support schools’ efforts, I’m delighted to announce that Oak National Academy has today rolled out an auto-translate function across all 10,000 of its online lessons.

This will allow Ukrainian children arriving in the UK to access education in their native language as they transition into life and safety in the UK

Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi

“This will allow Ukrainian children arriving in the UK to access education in their native language as they transition into life and safety in the UK.”

The lessons will be available translated into Ukrainian or Russian, as some refugee pupils will speak Russian as a first language.

On Wednesday, Mr Zahawi said: “What you are seeing now is a surge in our capability to take more Ukrainians.

“I can tell you in my own department in education, I have a team that’s already making plans for a capacity of 100,000 children that we will take into our schools.

“The family reunion route will be a couple of hundred thousand people coming through and then the humanitarian route which Michael Gove will outline in the next few days, will be uncapped.”

The online classroom has developed new functions guiding pupils through automatically translated versions of its lessons.

Pupils will be able to access quizzes, video lessons with translated subtitles and worksheets.

The translation function will build on earlier work translating the online lessons into common languages other than English spoken in UK schools, such as Urdu and Polish.

Oak National said: “The prototype was brought forward following the invasion of Ukraine which has led to widespread school closures and displacement of hundreds of thousands of children internally and to neighbouring countries.”

The UK will shortly welcome up to 200,000 Ukrainian refugees with a large number of them expected to be school-aged children, Oak National said.

Matt Hood, principal of Oak National Academy, said: “It is tragic that the lives of so many children have been blighted by this horrific invasion.

“The work we have done to make Oak’s lessons available in Ukrainian is only a tiny contribution to this crisis, and pales in comparison to the international effort needed to ensure the safety of families fleeing  violence.

“We hope that for Ukrainian children who will be arriving shortly in the UK , it’s a tool that may help them re-establish some sort of routine once they reach safety.”

He added that the automated translation meant the lessons would not “be perfect” and were not an attempt to align with the Ukrainian curriculum or to replace Ukraine’s own work providing remote education.

“Oak has been exploring whether our lessons can be translated into the common languages spoken by pupils in English schools for whom English is not their first language but, with the tragedy unfolding in Ukraine, we have pushed this work forward as rapidly as possible.”

Nadhim Zahawi told the conference that the Ukrainian flag was flying over the Department for Education because it stood “shoulder to shoulder with all Ukrainians against the barbaric, criminal invasion of their sovereign democratic country”.

He added that it was “almost impossible to imagine the horror of what they are going through”.

“I came here many of you will know aged 11 unable to string a sentence of English together…even the thought of going to school was really scary,” he added.

“And if my teacher…hadn’t reminded me to funnel some of that creative, disruptive energy into something good, I certainly wouldn’t be here today,” he said, thanking members for their work during the pandemic.

“Oak National Academy has certainly been one of our great achievements,” he told the conference.

“It was created by teachers for teachers and shows brilliantly what the profession was capable of in the hour of need.

“Over 500 teachers from over 50 schools, school trusts and partners working together, delivering over 140 million lessons during the pandemic.”

Mr Zahawi confirmed he had set an “ambitious target” for 90% of pupils leaving primary school to meet the expected standards in literacy and numeracy, adding that the forthcoming White Paper would set out a plan for securing this “achievable vision”.

He said: “Evidence shows that a family of schools that are tightly managed and well supported achieve the right outcomes for their students and deliver those important opportunities for their staff.”

Families of schools gave leaders more opportunities for career progression, he said, and they could provide collaboration with schools sharing resources and reducing their workload, as well as freedom, “because leaders spend less time worrying about managing facilities and more time making sure pupils learn and teachers teach”, he said.

More about this would be revealed in the White Paper, he added, although he said the families of schools had to be strong, because “some trusts are not high-performing”.

The paper would set out how he would deal with this challenge, he said.

He added that 500,000 teacher training opportunities would be delivered so that “every teacher in every corner of our country benefits from that evidence based professional development at every stage of their career”.

Mr Zahawi said that over 25,000 teachers and almost 23,000 academic mentors had taken part in the flagship Early Careers Framework programme this year.

He reaffirmed a commitment for a levelling up premium of £3,000 for maths, physics and chemistry teachers.

He said that a new literacy professional qualification for teachers would be available from the autumn.

“Because teaching is an increasingly global profession, I want to attract the very best teachers from across the world, that is why we will also introduce a new relocation premium,” he said, adding that this would help international teachers apply for Visas to work in the UK.

Mr Zahawi said it was “important to step back and look at what we’ve achieved with the National Tutoring Programme”, announcing that new data published on Friday showed that over one million tutoring courses had been delivered since the start of the programme last year.

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