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ESOL Online. Every child literate - a shared responsibility.
Ministry of Education.

Hamilton Boys' High School - he tangata he tangata he tangata

School background

Of the 2,250 students attending Hamilton Boys' High School, 35 are ESOL funded migrant students and 15 are from a refugee background. Over 50 different ethnic groups are represented on the school roll, and in almost 40% of homes a language other than English is spoken. HBHS is a very traditional school with a strong and successful academic focus. Working in an English language immersion setting in all areas of the curriculum is a challenge for new learners of English.

To cater for their needs, the school has seven ELL classes of varying sizes: one at each year level from years 9-13 and a junior and senior foundation class. An ESOL science class caters for students in Year 11, and in 2018 an inaugural Year 9 core class comprised solely of ELLs was set up. This initiative is set to continue.

Experienced teachers

Teacher with two students.

The school is fortunate to have three well-qualified ELL teachers with many years of experience between them. The three teachers are also the tutor teachers of the 70 international fee-paying students and are experts in the provision of pastoral care. The support of the International Dean and her homestay coordinator is invaluable, as is the support provided by extra teacher aides financed through the refugee flexible funding pool.

ELL Department HOD, Wendy Cameron says, "It is a pleasure to work with such a committed group of teachers. We have been dubbed 'the blond bobs' and maybe we are interchangeable to the boys, not only because we have similar fair hairstyles but because we all care equally for the wellbeing of 'our boys'. We constantly chat about the students, backing each other up and collectively working out solutions to any problems that arise. In terms of teaching content, we share resources and work in together to ensure continuity of progress for each student from year to year. As with most ESOL teachers, a lot of our work involves pastoral care and we provide this, not only to the students but to one another. We are friends as well as colleagues and this happy relationship is obvious to the students. Our positive environment is contagious and I believe the students know we care about them and they in turn are respectful and caring of us."   

A haven for new migrants, refugees, and international students

ELL classes are timetabled in adjoining rooms so that there is constant liaison between staff and this area is a haven for new migrants, refugees and international students. The supportive core staff of three teachers who have worked together for almost twenty years attend functions at the homework centre and are spectators at sports games where informal contact is made with students' families.

Sporting opportunities

Hamilton boys senior green soccer team and their coaches.

With the academic curriculum posing many challenges, it is gratifying that there is one area in which these newcomers to New Zealand can be quickly and successfully integrated. HBHS is one of the top sporting schools in the country and offers sporting opportunities in over 50 individual and team sports. Each staff member is committed to the co-curricular life of the school and is a manager or coach. This is a great link with the students and supports the school goal of relational teaching.

With so many sports available, there is something to interest every student. Through the support of teachers, there are ELLs involved in almost all of these sports. Football and futsal are particularly popular with students from a refugee background. Badminton, table tennis, basketball, cricket and golf are popular with the migrant students. The school has a strong international rugby programme where Japanese students rub shoulders with Fijian and Kiwi kids in an inclusive team setting.

Liaising around practice times, and providing and organizing transport helps refugee background students, many of whom do not have a car. Equipment and second hand uniforms are made available as well. Inclusion in teams is a great way for new learners of English to mingle with their peers in an area where language is not a barrier.

Two students from hamilton boys high.

Football is an area where Afghan and Somali students excel. An article (Pursuit of soccer: the journey and dreams of two Somali boys) in the 2013 Somali Graduate Journal celebrates the success of two HBHS old boys who gained full football scholarships to study in USA. "During their attendance at Hamilton Boys' High School they were among the best students and were indeed excellent role models for their community. Both gained NCEA Level 3 with good grades. They credit their schooling achievements as well as their soccer talents for meeting the requirement for a USA scholarship."

Both young men have now completed university qualifications. Mohamed Aided is working as an accountant and Mohamed Awad is a professional soccer player.

After school homework centre

Students in the hamilton boys homework centre.

The after school homework centre is staffed by two classroom teachers who are fully committed to ensuring that students turn up for extra help. They have volunteer academic scholars and senior students who willingly provide assistance across all areas of the curriculum. The physical proximity of the homework centre to the careers centre is advantageous as the careers advisor is on hand for support and information.

Special festivals

Special festivals, such as Eid and Diwali, are celebrated with the ELL department, and members of the school leadership team are involved in these celebrations. Headmaster Susan Hassall says, "Events at which we, as staff, can share special occasions with students from such diverse, rich backgrounds provide a unique opportunity for us to learn a great deal from these young men. We are fortunate to have them in our school family, for many reasons. By supporting them to become more integrated into our New Zealand world, and enabling each young man to find his place in our community, we change the reality of what our world is - for the better. I am so grateful to the staff of our ELL department - they go far beyond what I could reasonably expect from teachers; they care passionately. And that makes such a difference."

Pupils and teachers from Hamilton Boys High School.

The number of students from migrant and refugee backgrounds continues to grow. Hamilton Boys' High School is committed to providing the best of care for these students through a strong pastoral focus, by ensuring that appropriate academic pathways are in place, and by using the platform of sport to integrate them into the life of the school.

Published on: 06 Nov 2018