Friday, 3 January 2014

The voices of high achieving Turkish-speaking (EAL) students in a British Secondary School-4

Student Profiles
Student A: She is 14, in Year 9 and Turkish. She was born in the UK. She describes herself as Turkish first. Her first language is Turkish. Her parents were unable to speak good English at first. Her mother is from Erzincan and her father is from Malatya but they came to Istanbul when they were young and they grew up there. Her mother is a housewife and her father owns a café. Her father returns home quite early so they are able to do many activities together. She has a good relationship with her father and seems very happy. She attended nursery for two years when she was three. She has learnt English in nursery but her parents taught her some Basic English such as colours and numbers as well. She has got a four year old brother. Her parents read her bedtime stories when she was young. Her mother attended college in London to become a nursery teacher but she stopped when she had her second child. Her father attended primary school in Turkey then he went to college in London but he didn’t complete the course. He is literate in Turkish.
Her English and Maths levels were both 5c when she arrived to secondary school. At present, her Maths level is 7b and her English level is 6b. She enjoys Music, Drama and Maths. She finds Science, Spanish and French to be quite challenging. Science is particularly tough for her because she has difficulties in understanding the investigations.
In her free time she takes violin lessons outside of school and she attends private tuitions in English, Maths and Science for an hour each. They help her greatly and she has improved in all three subjects and even moved up to top set for Maths. She has not experienced any bullying issues and she knows that she can tell the teacher or someone in school if such a problem occurs.
She would not like to have a bilingual (Turkish-English) education at school because she would get the languages mixed up. She thinks there are some advantages to being bilingual such as, knowing an extra language to add to her CV. The disadvantage is that she gets muddled up when speaking English. Sometimes her sentences are half in Turkish, half in English.
She spends an hour a day revising but this is liable to increase if she has a test. She does her homework on the second day it is given. She uses the Internet, text books and her notebooks to revise.
She reads in English and her favourite genre is horror. The last book she read was called “The Hunger Games”. She believes that education is crucial to allow her to be successful and achieve higher places in life and realises how fortunate she is to have the opportunities that her parents did not have.
She recommends for other students to concentrate during lessons, revise for exams and where possible obtain tutoring in the subjects that they are weaker at. She watches Turkish TV programmes and lots of films on Turkish TV channels. She visits Turkey every two years. She usually goes to Istanbul or Altinoluk where her aunt has a summer house.
In the future she would like to work in the field of Science, perhaps to become a doctor. She hopes to study at university and wants to live close to her family.
Student B:  He is 15 years old and in Year 9. He described himself as energetic and funny. He was born in the UK. He went to nursery when he was three and a half, a little late as his parents did not speak sufficient English to enrol him earlier. His first language is Turkish. At home, he speaks mainly Turkish but his mother goes to school to learn English at present, so to help her, he speaks English also. He learnt English both at nursery and individually. His parents are from Marash, South-eastern Turkey. They came here in 1998. His parents did not read bedtime stories to him but told him about their own childhood stories from the past. They also gave him advice about life. He’s got a little brother who attends primary school. His father works in a shop and his mother goes to school a couple of days a week. His mother went to school until she was thirteen but had to leave because the secondary school was too far away to commute to from home. His father went to school until he was fourteen but when the sole teacher in the village left, he was unable to pursue his studies further. They got married when she was seventeen and he was nineteen. They stayed for two years in Turkey before they came to the UK.
When student B arrived at secondary school his English level was 4b and Maths level was 5b. Now in Maths he has 7c and in English 5a -6c.  
He likes PE and Drama. He finds Spanish quite challenging because he has difficulties to learn it. In his free time, he goes to shopping with his cousins, he also goes to saz (a musical instrument) lessons as well as private tuitions for English and Maths in Cemevi (a place where Shi Muslims go to pray, learn about their own culture and participate in different activities). More information about ‘Cemevi’ can be found in the Appendix 9. He also plays for the school football team.
He would not like to have bilingual education in school because it would be quite confusing to study within the dual languages. He finds the advantages of speaking Turkish are being able to interact with other Turkish speaking people and passing Turkish GCSE with good grades. He doesn’t think that speaking Turkish has disadvantages.
He has not been bullied but he knows what to do if he’s bullied.
He revises an hour or two per day. He uses a CD for Maths which he borrowed from the Maths Department and books to revise. He reads in English and Turkish. He likes adventure and horror. He thinks that the education is important because he wants to do things that his parents could not do. He does not watch Turkish TV regularly but watches it if his mother happens to be watching it which has happened on several occasions. He goes to Turkey once in every two years.
In the future, he wants to become an architect, or otherwise pursue a job involving design. He wants to live close to his family and to be based mainly in the UK.
Student C: She is 15 and in Year 10. She described herself as a positive and smiley person, not at all shy. She has got a lot of friends that are not just Turkish but are also from other backgrounds. She has a little sister who is 10 years old. Her mother is six months pregnant. She said she was raised differently. Her parents had told her that they truanted often from school in their youth when they were in Turkey. They came to London in 2000 and before that they were in Gaziantep, the place of her birth in South-eastern Turkey. Her dad works in the textile business and her mother is a housewife. She went to nursery when she was four and started infant school a year after. Her parents didn’t speak English and at the time she was an only child so she had to learn English by herself.
Her father went to college in London to learn Maths while her mother went to college to learn how to read and write in English because she was not literate in her first language. Her mother is now able to write in English.
Student C attended Turkish school to learn how to read and write in Turkish after she arrived in the UK. Her father was able to help her with Maths but in other lessons, she had to revise on her own. They didn’t read her bedtime stories but told her about their own lives. She admitted that at first she was lazy in primary school because she had to change schools twice.
Her Maths level was level 3 and her English was level 4. In Maths her target is B-C and for English her target level is A-B.
She enjoys Sociology but feels less confident in Business Studies, a subject which she finds more challenging. She is part of the police cadets which demands a lot of her free time in order for to participate in education camps with them.
She told me that there was bullying before Ms. M (Turkish speaking parents- school liaison officer) arrived but since she organized the Cultural Enrichment Days, bullying has stopped.
Although she does not like to read, she believes that education is vital to self-improvement and to ‘climb up the ladder’ in life. She does not have time to watch TV. She goes to Turkey once every year.     
In the future, she wants to become a policewoman which does not require her to go on to higher education. She would like to reside close to her family in the UK.
Student D: He is 15 and in Year 10. He would describe himself and his parents as Turkish, first and foremost. He was born in the UK and attended nursery. His parents are Kurdish but they speak mainly Turkish, although the father does speak some Kurdish. Both parents are able to express themselves with Basic English and have graduated from a primary school in Turkey. They did not continue with their education afterwards.
His Maths, Science and English levels were 4’s when he arrived to school. At present he has A*/A in Maths and B in English. He enjoys Physics but finds English the most challenging. In his free time, he goes to boxing and plays football. He attends private tuitions once a week for two hours. He was not bullied at school.
He thinks it would be confusing to study in two languages but declares that he feels proud of himself for being bilingual and having the ability to take part and relate to his own inherent culture. He says that the disadvantages of bilingualism however, are that he feels that at certain times some people form prejudices against those who possess multiple cultures. 
He spends a long time revising if he has exams coming up. For instance, for his last exam he spent 6 hours of revising per day. He uses CGP books, gets help from his aunties and uncles, as well as the help of his tutors.  
 He reads philosophy books in his free time because they fascinate him. He advises others to also have the same determination to study hard to achieve their dreams.
He doesn’t watch Turkish TV. He has visited Turkey eight or nine times so far.
He wants to become a doctor. He has got A* and A’s in Science and would like to use these grades to make this career possible in future. He would like to live and work in the UK.
Student E: He is 16 and in Year 11. He describes himself as Kurdish and Turkish and both languages are spoken at home. He was born in Turkey and came here in the new millennium when he was four or five.  He did not go to nursery. His parents did not go to school at all and they could not read or write in Turkish. They do not speak good English.
His Maths level was level 5 and his Science and English levels were 4. At present, he has B/C in English and A in Maths. He enjoys PE but he finds Maths the most difficult and therefore attends Maths booster classes. In his free time he plays football. He was not bullied in school.
 He would not like to have bilingual education. He agrees with Student D about the advantages and disadvantages of being bilingual. He uses a CD and study pack given to him by Maths faculty to revise his Maths. He does not like reading. He recommends other students to keep trying hard.
He watches what his mother watches on Turkish TV. He has been to Turkey three times. He wants to study accountancy and work in the bank in the future. He also wishes to live and work in the UK.
Student F: She is 16 and in Year 11. She describes herself as Kurdish and Turkish. She was born in Turkey and came to the UK when she was 8 or 9. She went to nursery. Her mother does not speak good English but she can get by. Her father went to school but her mother has not; she learnt how to read and write in Turkish and English in London. Student F’s parents speak Kurdish and Turkish at home, so she speaks both as well.
Her Science level was 4 and her English and Maths levels were 3. At present she has C in Maths and B in English.
She enjoys Business Studies but she finds Maths the most challenging. In her free time she reads. She revises at home and at school.  She was bullied in school and although she followed the procedure and told someone, it took a long time for the issue to be resolved. She thinks it would be good to have bilingual education as she feels it would benefit her. She believes that the advantage of being able to speak another language is that when she goes to another country, she is able to relate to the people and the culture.
 She spends an hour revising per day. She uses the same CD and the study pack as Student D for Maths revision.  She also goes to the library on Saturdays and Sundays to study. She likes reading horror books and biographies.  
She recommends other students to keep track of their school work, to be organized and to work hard.  She likes to watch documentaries and reality shows on Turkish TV. She’s been to Turkey only once but her grandma came to visit her in the UK. She would like to work in the Media and while she hopes to travel in the future, she wishes to work and reside in the UK.
 Parent phone- interview
Student B’s mother agreed to be interviewed by phone. She told me that they lived in Maras (South-eastern Turkey) but they had to immigrate to the UK because of political problems. They have lived in the UK for fourteen years. She was 17 and her husband was 20 years old when they got married and she became pregnant with her son when she was 19.
 When she first arrived, she experienced problems with the language but her relatives that already resided in the UK helped her a lot with the hospital appointments during her pregnancy. They also helped her when her son suffered from a long illness (the reason why Student B attended nursery later than the other children). She asked her neighbours and relatives advice about the good nurseries and schools in the area and they recommended her the nursery that her son went to. Her son loved his nursery; he learnt English very quickly there. However, she always felt insecure when helping with her son’s education. Therefore, she started to send him to private tuitions from Year 4 onwards. He was tutored in both Maths and English.
She attends college 3 days a week and works in a supermarket the other 3 days a week. At home all decisions are made together with the children so the family shares a strong and honest relationship. She and her husband would like their children to have a very good education and they do whatever it takes to provide them with this opportunity. They have also started to save in advance for their university education. Although many Turkish youngsters are involved in gangs around the area, her son has very good role models who go to university in their close family, therefore they never show interest in following badly behaved children. She is very happy that her son’s school employed Ms. E as a Turkish speaking parents-school liaison officer. Since Ms. E there, she is no longer afraid of going to the school and asking any questions she has.

She told me that one particular worry was that during parents’ evenings the teachers always told her that her son was doing great and he was going to achieve very high levels. However, when she learnt that her son was not in the top sets of the subjects, she was quite disappointed. She did not understand the reason behind this and told me that the school did not explain to her clearly what her son needed to do to move up into the top set.

The voices of high achieving Turkish-speaking (EAL) students in a British Secondary School-3


This research gave me a great opportunity to look into the high achieving Turkish speaking students in a comprehensive secondary school setting in the UK. In addition, I was able to see how these high achieving students’ parents and the school were supporting them in both school and home life. Compared to the first generation of Turkish speaking migrants, the high achieving students in my research seemed more settled and ready to build a life in the UK. They realized the importance and the benefits of education and they knew how to move forward in order to meet their targets. Their parents were aware of the advantages and the disadvantages of the British Education System, particularly when the children did not speak enough English. Having attended nurseries, these students learned BICS (Basic Interpersonal Communication Skills) in English. In schools, we also call this ‘playground language’. Cummins (1984a, 1984b, 2000b) in Baker (2006:174) discusses BICS (Basic Interpersonal Communication Skills) as well as CALP (Cognitive Academic Language Proficiency).
‘BICS occur when face-to-face ‘context embedded situations provide for example, non-verbal support to secure understanding. CALP, on the other hand, is said to occur in context reduced academic situations. Where higher order thinking skills (e.g. analysis, synthesis, evaluation) are required in the curriculum, language is ‘disembedded’ from a meaningful, supportive context.’ 
When the students started in the main school, they were ready to learn ‘academic language’ like their peers. However, as their primary language which they spoke at home with their parents was Turkish and/or Kurdish, they experienced some difficulty in transferring their first language skills to the second. Parents were not able to help them with their homework due to lack of previous education in own countries (many students’ parents of those that contributed to this research were in fact illiterate in their first language). In some cases this proved to be frustrating for the students; for if the ‘academic language’ is not taught explicitly they ran the risk of falling behind their native peers. This may be the reason why these parents sought the help of private tuition for their children. I acknowledge the fact that many native speakers attend also private tuition due to the large class sizes in schools and the limited time available for subject teachers to reinforce and elaborate on the topics they learn.
When learning another language ‘motivation’ is the most important key to be successful.  If schools could raise ‘motivation’, students may achieve higher. According to Baker (2006:132);
  ‘Reasons for learning a second (minority or majority) language tend to fall into two categories; Group 1: A wish to identify with or join another language group which is termed ‘integrative motivation. Such learners wish to join with the minority or majority language’s cultural activities, and consequently find their roots or form friendships.  Group 2: Learning a language for useful purpose. This is termed ‘instrumental motivation’. Learners may acquire a second language to find a job and earn money, further career prospects, pass exams, help fulfil the demands of their job, or assist their children in bilingual schooling.’      
The Turkish speaking students who participated in my research possess the integrative and instrumental motivation. On the one hand, they thought learning Turkish and Kurdish was important to communicate with relatives and to make friends with whom they could identify themselves with. On the other hand, they knew that proficiency in English would help them find a good job and provide them with higher standards of living.
Strategies for schools, teachers and parents
Dörnyei(1994) in  Baker (2006:134) suggests that in order to promote language learning, teachers could include a socio-cultural component within the syllabus, such as native speakers and TV programmes. To develop learners’ cross-cultural awareness, they could focus on cross-cultural similarities rather than the differences. Student contact with second language speakers could also be developed through pen-pals, exchange programmes or even correspondence via email. Reinforcing the students’ self-confidence in their mastery of the language, promoting student competence by explaining to them what they can do, rather than what they can’t and encouraging students to make a personal learning plan, are just some of the other strategies that the teachers may employ. A culturally inclusive curriculum is vital to ensure that students feel both comfortable and secure throughout their education.  
All the participating students in my research are ‘Advanced bilinguals’, meaning:
pupils who have had all or most of their school education in the UK and whose oral proficiency in English is usually indistinguishable from that of pupils with English as a first language but whose writing may still show distinctive features related to their language background.”
Some strategies to raise their levels in school subjects could be: providing opportunities to hear an orally rehearse the language, using dictogloss activities, bridging talk and text, concentrating on target vocabulary and phrases, providing glossaries for the topic before lessons and allowing for time for the discussion of answers with an articulate partner before resolving questions as a class.    
When I spoke to one of the students’ mother on the phone, her main concern was that her son had not been allocated a place in the top sets of any of his classes in spite of the teachers’ assurances that he was indeed progressing very well at school. Having been told throughout her son’s entire academic life that he was achieving well, she had believed that was in the top sets of Science, Maths and English. When she discovered otherwise, she was a little upset that none of the teachers had mentioned this during parents’ evenings.  “I did not know why my son was not in top sets although all his teachers told me that he was doing very well.” she said. She then looked for a private tuition facility and her son started attending Maths and English classes there. Since then his levels have improved and he feels much more confident in these subjects.    
As teachers, we know that there is always a target level for students and the improvements that they must make in order to achieve that level. Had teachers clearly explained these objectives, the student would have learnt how to reach their target level, while the parent would have been more capable of providing the assistance her son needed to improve. In this case having a Turkish speaking parents-school liaison officer helped a lot for her to understand that she needed to support her son in other ways. In the case of parents speaking insufficient English for comprehension, parents should either bring someone who is able to converse for them or the school should be capable of providing them with a translator.

It is the school’s duty to inform parents how their children are progressing and what they need to do to continue to develop academically. Schools must collaborate with parents to ensure that they understand both the British Education System and the schools’ expectations of the students. A consultation was prepared by DfES in March 2003 which was called ‘Aiming High: Raising the Achievement of Minority Ethnic Pupils’ ( Schools and teachers can also find many useful strategies to follow in their classrooms to raise the achievement and attainment of Turkish speaking students. Another publication which could also prove to be useful is ‘Raising the attainment of Pakistani, Bangladeshi and Turkish heritage pupils’ which was published in March 2007 and can be accessed via the webpage below.  ( )         

The voices of high achieving Turkish-speaking (EAL) students in a British Secondary School-2

Data collection
Data were collected from: field notes; two focus group interviews of six students, recorded face-to- face interviews of participating students; observations from two hours of year 11 lessons (English and Science) and a telephone interview from a Turkish parent.
Newby (2010:64) says that research questions are the statements of the issue that we want to research. It should pin down the issue that we want to investigate. What is particularly important about research questions is this the way we phrase them can affect our approach to the research. And this is why; research questions point us to the data we need and are also indicative of the methodology that will give us the data and process them.’ 
Considering research questions, a useful way of deciding whether to pursue a particular study is the clarity and ease in which research questions to which research questions can be conceived and answered.  Cohen, Manion and Morrison (2011:111)  
When I was preparing questions I separated the time into past, present and future. I wanted to know where the students had experienced, where they thought they are now and what their future inspiration were. 
I preferred the use of face-to-face interviews with the students instead of using a questionnaire because I believed that I could communicate with them more effectively and having the same background would help to ease their worries during the interviews. I am pleased to say, this was what happened.
I followed the good interviewer criteria proposed by Denscombe (1998: Location 3621-3643) which were
 The good interviewer needs to be attentive, sensitive to the feelings of the informant, s/he is able to tolerate silences during the talk, and knows when to shut up and say nothing, s/he is a adept at using prompt and probes, checks as well as non-judgemental. With focus groups, the good facilitator manages to let everyone have a say.
In ‘How to Research’ (2010:211) Blaxter, Hughes and Tight mention about the shape and nature of data. The shape of data is the condition which the research data are in, and the facilities which are available to analyse them. The nature of data is what research data are and the meaning of numbers and words. My raw data was qualitative (group interviews) together with some quantitative data which were given to me orally by the students about their KS2 and KS3/KS4 English and Maths current and target levels. I had the school’s latest OfSTED report but not specifically for my identified research group. I also kept notes during my observation and meetings.  
Conducting the interviews
Denscombe advises that
at the beginning there should be the opportunity to say ‘Hello’, to do some introductions, to talk about the aims of the research and to say something about the origins of the researcher’s own interest in the topic. The first question takes on a particular for the interview. It should offer the interviewee the chance to settle down and relax. For this reason it is normally good practice to kick off with an ‘easy’ question: something on which the interviewee might be expected to have well-formulated views and something that is quite near the forefront of their mind (1998: Location: 3667-3678).
I had about 45 minutes with the first group of three students, but afterwards I had time pressure with the rest of the three. All the students who were participating the interviews, needed to be back at their lessons after the break time and I haven’t quite finished with the questions for the first three students. Therefore, I had to conduct the rest of the interviews quite quickly. I did not have time to reflect or expand on the answers.
The students were very welcoming and open. They did not have any hesitation about discussing their experience in school. They seemed very pleased that they were chosen for the interviews as successful students.      
Having introduced myself to the first group of students, I explained why I was doing this research. I showed them the voice recorder I was going to use and explained them how I was going to ask questions as well as in what order it was going to take place.
Interpretation of the data
Blaxter, Hughes and Tight (2010) clearly explain the process of analysing the data that has been collected, identifying two closely related processes: the first one is managing the data by reducing its size and scope, so that it can be reported upon it adequately and usefully; secondly one is analysing the managed set of data, by abstracting from it and drawing attention to what is felt of a particular importance or significance. The table below presents a whole picture of quantitative data in the research. 
Table 1: Participating students’ KS2 and KS3/4 Maths &English levels
KS2 Level 
Current Level/Grade

A (Year 9)
B (Year 9)
C (Year 10)
D (Year 10)
E (Year 11)
F (Year 11)

Table 1 shows that all participating students but two achieved level 4 and above in English and Maths for KS2 results which is the expected level for year 6 students. Year 9 students have made two levels progress while the year 10 and 11 students have also achieved and expanded their target by reaching A* to C‘s in both, Maths and English.  
When analysing the qualitative data drawn from the focus group interviews, it is clear that the common features of the participating high achieving students were: a supportive family; attending a nursery and additional private tuition.
In Foundations of Bilingual Education Baker states that if children learn two languages from the birth it would be called simultaneous or infant bilingualism but if they learn one of the languages after about 3 years old, this would be called consecutive or sequential bilingualism (2006: 4). The students who took part in my research were consecutive bilinguals and they started learning English around 3 years old in the nurseries they attended. Some of these students live in bilingual and multilingual communities (Turkish and Kurdish). They had to speak in Turkish and/or Kurdish at home because their parents did not speak any English. Additionally the parents’ education levels were quite low in first language as well. Many of them did not have the opportunity to continue with their education. However the difference between high achieving students’ parents and low achieving ones was that high achieving students’ parents wanted their children not to be disadvantaged by the system, so they started supporting their children from early on.
Another feature which could be seen between the high achieving Turkish students in British schools was that the participating successful female students’ families also had high expectations of their daughters and had good relations with them as opposed to some families who wanted to follow the traditions of their culture.
Research relating to families conducted from the early 70s until the recent times, such as that by Berk (1972:109) in Turkish speaking Communities and Education in Aydin Mehmet Ali (2003:16), stated that
Turkish- Cypriot youth is discontented and frustrated. The failure at school and the number of those leaving school early are very big among the Turkish-Cypriot youths. The girls have less opportunity for choosing their jobs, education, friends or partners.  
In my research, however, it is pleasing to hear that the participating Turkish speaking students’ aspirations were varied and still quite challenging such as; working in media, wanting to become a policewoman, accountant, scientist, teacher and architect. This shows that students’ aspirations are shifting from what their families want towards what they want and what they are good at.
Student A told me that she would like to become a doctor because she loved Science. Student C wants to become a policewoman and she is a police cadet.  Student F however, would like to work in Media which would give her the opportunity to travel around the world.
Berk (1972:60) in Turkish speaking Communities and Education in Aydin Mehmet Ali (2003:17) also said that;
‘besides the underprivileged social, economic, situation in the inner London Boroughs, the traditional Turkish family upbringing restricts and inhibits the child’s linguistic and intellectual development… and ..Children are less likely to be allowed, if at all, to use their creative imagination in play…parents buy very few toys…’
Ugur (1990) in Mehmet Ali (2003:22) showed that;
‘the educational achievement levels of Turkish speaking students who were from Turkey, depended on the living and working conditions of their families and their attitudes to education.’
By listening to the participating students, I noticed that although their parents did not have proper education, they encouraged and supported their children to study further. Hence, their attitudes towards education were positive and motivating for these students.   
For example; Student B stated that education was important because he wanted to do what his parents could not do. Lack of education was a barrier for his parents. His parents incessantly encouraged him to achieve better in school. Student C said: “When my mum came here, she wasn’t literate in Turkish as well, so she went to a school to learn reading and writing in Turkish.”  Student E said; “My mum has never been to school in Turkey. She never learnt how to read and write in any of the languages.”  Student F’s father has attended school but her mother has not, so she learnt how to read and write in both Turkish and English in London.
Yazar (1992) in Mehmet Ali (2003:23) looked at Turkish Kurdish cultures and the use of bodily complaints as a symbol of emotional distress amongst refugees and argued that it was linked to “…wanting to be acknowledged, to be integrated with family members, into the host country and have their voice heard.”         
For example, Student C stated that there was bullying before Ms. M (school liaison officer for Turkish speaking parents) arrived but ever since she organized Cultural Enrichment Days, bullying has ceased. She believes that becoming acquainted with Turkish culture has helped other students to become more aware and friendly towards Turkish speaking students. She said that she was grateful to Turkish speaking students’ parents-school liaison officer for improving the relations between non-Turkish speaking and Turkish speaking students. 
Another aspect in my research is that all participating students would like to live and work in the UK in the future. This is quite interesting as the first generation always wished to return either to Cyprus or Turkey as soon as they had acquired the sufficient financial opportunities to do so.
Student B declared that he wanted to live both close to his family and primarily in the UK in the future, while Student F said that although she wished to travel, she would also like to be based mainly in the UK.
Mehmet Ali (2003:7) explains the migration patterns of Turkish speaking people to the UK. She says that migration from Turkey commenced in the early 1970s with men arriving on their own and bringing their families in later years. It also says that the first original migrants originated from rural parts of Turkey. Mehmet Ali (2203:8) explains that in 1990s, Turkish speaking Kurdish communities started to arrive because of the Turkish-Kurdish political conflict in South-eastern Turkey.
All of the students involved in my investigation confirmed Ali’s words by telling me that their parents came from the South-Eastern part of Turkey and that they had migrated to the UK due to the conflict in the area. However, it is important to take into account that the students partaking in this research had either been born in the UK or arrived in their infancy. This may have been a contributory factor to their decision about where they choose to reside and work in the future. They may not possess a feeling of belonging or emotional attachment to their parents’ countries. Furthermore, since they are achieving well in school, they are also aware of the education and job opportunities available within the UK. 
All the participating students, except Student E, stated that they did not want bilingual education because it would be very confusing for them. As they are the fifth generation of the Turkish- Kurdish community in the UK, we can see that their attachment to their first language has changed. They accept their language as a medium to access their culture and to be able to communicate with grandparents and relatives around them. For example Student B stated that the advantages of speaking Turkish were being able to interact with other Turkish speaking people and passing the Turkish GCSE with a high grade. He did not think that speaking Turkish had disadvantages. Student D said; “the advantages of being bilingual are to be able to relate to own culture and to be proud of you. The disadvantage is at certain times, you can feel that people have some prejudices against you.”  

Within this particular school however, although they boasted over 200 Turkish speaking students, they did not hold Turkish GCSE classes. In my experience, students who are connected to their culture and language become more successful and settled citizens within their new country.  When I inquired about the absence of these classes to the Turkish speaking parents-school liaison officer, she informed me that many of the students were already attending weekend schools as well as participating in cultural organisations to promote the language, thus the school did not see the need for additional classes. 

The voices of high achieving Turkish-speaking (EAL) students in a British Secondary School

This assignment presents a small scale case study of the education experiences of Turkish speaking high ability students with English as an additional language (EAL) in a school in London together with my own reflections of carrying out the research as a beginning researcher.
When Cohen, Manion and Morrison (2011:105) wrote about what gives a rise to a research project, they stated  that some research projects may begin with an area of interest or personal experience that researchers may have been wanting to investigate.’   
Edwards and Talbot (1999:3) in Blaxter, Hughes and Tight (2010:22) recommended that researchers should be selfish and focus on what interests them.
I wanted to investigate the experiences of high achieving Turkish speaking students in British Secondary Schools because as a Turkish speaking- EAL co-ordinator in a secondary state school in London, I have read many reports about underachieving Turkish speaking students, but no reports about high achievers. I believed that to investigate the factors contributing high achievement may be more useful for education practitioners, schools and parents enabling them to raise the attainment and achievement of EAL students.
Two key studies informed my investigation:
Assessing Maths National Curriculum Education through a Bilingual Environment (AMEBE) which is the first socio-linguistic investigation of language use in a bilingual Turkish/ English Maths lesson in secondary schools in the UK (state the Author, 2010). It aimed to improve the achievement and attainment of Turkish speaking students in Maths lessons.
The more recent report by Issa, Allen and Ross (2008) was called ‘Young people’s educational attainment in London’s Turkish, Turkish Kurdish and Turkish Cypriot Communities’.

 I thought being Turkish and speaking the language might give me a better access to the target group of students and their families and I decided to choose a school in North London because many Turkish speaking students attend schools in the area. I chose focus group interviews because I enjoy talking to people.  I contacted the school’s Turkish speaking parents-school liaison officer and was given the approval of the school management through her. I have looked at different research methods and decided to do my research through a focus group. I asked the school to identify successful Turkish speaking students for me from year 9 to 11 and six students agreed to take part in two focus groups to help me to answer the question:
What are the experiences of high achieving Turkish speaking students in British Secondary Schools?

Choosing the research method
According to Arbnor and Bjerke (1997:5) in Blaxter, Hughes & Tight (2010:58)
we can never empirically determine the best approach. This can only be done reflectively by considering a situation to be studied and your own opinion of life. This also means that even if you believe that one approach is more interesting or rewarding than another, we cannot on any general ground. The only thing we can do is to try to make explicit the special characteristics on which the various approaches are based.    
What I would like happening as a result of this research from the point of schools is to change the way teachers look at the Turkish speaking students in the UK secondary schools; to understand how to raise the expectations, how to recommend parents & students constructively also to understand the parents’ and students’ expectations from schools. On the other hand, I would like Turkish speaking parents to realize how to support their children’s learning and how to build constructive relationship with schools to supervise their children in their study life. In addition, the Turkish students should have a handle on how much commitment and effort it takes to achieve and attain in the schools. 
There are advantages of focus group interviews;
Watts and Ebbutt (1987) in Cohen, Manion and Morrison (2011: 432) explain that,
‘such interviews are useful’ where a group of people working together for some time or everyone concerned is aware of what others in the group are saying. The group interview can generate a wider range of responses than in individual interviews.
Bogdan and Biklen (1992:100) in Cohen, Manion and Morrison (2011: 432) add that group interviews might be useful for gaining an insight into what might be pursued in subsequent individual interviews. Arksey and Knight (1999:76) in Cohen, Manion and Morrison (2011:432) suggest that having more than one interviewee present can provide two versions of events – a cross-check – and one can complement the other with additional points, leading to a more complete and reliable record.
There are also disadvantages: Arksey and Knight (1999:76) in Cohen, Manion and Morrison (2011: 432) note that the respondent may dominate the interview. They also suggest that antagonisms may be stirred up at the interview, individuals may be reticent in front of others, particularly if they are colleagues or if the matter is sensitive.    Watts and Ebbutt (1987) in Cohen, Manion and Morrison (2011: 432) add that group interviews may produce ‘group think’, discouraging individuals who hold a different view from speaking out in front of the other group members.  
During the interviews I had quite a limited time of one and a half hour with all the participants and the interviews took place from 9 am to 10 am then from 11am to 11:30am. However the questions that I prepared enabled me to ask the same questions to all the participants without an exception, and so I was able to have the answers from all of them. The way I dealt with when one of the students wanted to dominate the conversation was to remind him/her that I had a very short time with them and in order to give everyone an equal chance, I needed to get the answers within a time limit. 

The school context
The names of the school and the students who took part in my research will not be given in order to maintain their anonymity. The information presented here is taken from the latest OfSTED inspection report which was in November 2011.
The school is a comprehensive and community secondary school. The age range of pupils is 11-19. It’s a mixed school. There are 1385 pupils on the school roll. In addition, there are 192 students in the 6th form. The governing body is the appropriate authority.
The school is a larger than average school, with specialist Arts College status. Just over 50% of students come from a wide range of minority ethnic groups and there are more boys than girls on roll. The students eligible for free school meals are well above the national average. A larger than average proportion of students with special educational needs and/or disabilities attend school. However, proportion of students with statements is below national average.  The proportion of students of who speak English as an additional language is above the national average.
Inspection judgement:
Overall effectiveness: 2 (good)
The school’s capacity for sustained improvement: 2 (good)
Students who speak English as an additional language perform particularly well. Girls perform slightly better than boys but any gap in the rate of progress is narrowing.
The school has a positive relationship with parents and carers. Initiatives including the appointment of a Turkish home liaison officer, and an effective parent staff association, demonstrate the school’s commitment to engaging parents and carers in parents and carers is high.      
The school holds the international School award. It also has Healthy School status as well as the Leading Parent Partnership Award.    
Students’ prior attainment on entry to the school is variable but is broadly in line with the national average. Attainment in 2011 showed a sharp increase, compare with the previous two years, with 68% of students gaining five or more good grades at GCSE level including English and Maths. This represents an increase of 22% compared with 2010.
Choosing this school for my research gave me the opportunity to investigate Turkish speaking boys and girls equally.
Ethical considerations
Blaxter, Hughes and Tight (2010:156) state that there are two key issues are likely to confront the researcher as soon as s/he begins to consider collecting data for the project; access and ethics. Access is about the reliance on adult gatekeepers. If there is a good research relationship with the teacher, it may ensure access. In addition, the setting and the autonomy of children are quite important in order to get the best result;
A researcher should perform or negotiate two identities which balance out the researcher’s own theoretical perspective, the interest of the teachers and of the children (Davies 2008:4.15 in Blaxter, Hughes and Tight (2010:156).
In my research the main gatekeeper was the Turkish speaking parents-school liaison officer and the head teacher but I also had to get permission from the participants’ subject teachers to allow them to attend the interviews and for me to observe some of the lessons.
Colin Lankshear and Michele Knobel in A handbook for Teacher Research: from design to implementation state that
‘Ethics is concerned with ensuring that the interests and well-being of people are not harmed as a result of the research being done’ (Location 1470:5296).
Considering the factors above, I asked the school’s Turkish speaking parent-school liaison officer about the ethical codes of the school and she told me to send her an email about my request to get permission from the school management. I emailed her about my research, and she organized the first visit to get together to plan the next steps. The fact that I intended to carry out research about successful students made it easier to get an access to the school. It also made the parents pleased that their children were selected because of their high attainment and achievement. 
Cohen, Manion and Morrison (2011:77) note that
The principle of informed consent arises from the subject’s right to freedom and self-determination. Being free is a condition of living in a democracy, and when restrictions and limitations are placed on that freedom they must be justified and consented to, as in research.’   
Blaxter, Hughes and Tight (2010: 157) also suggest strategies to increase the chances of gaining access such as; asking for advice on the most appropriate to negotiate access, being modest in the requests, making effective use of existing contacts, and those of the supervisor, manager and colleagues, basing the research within the institution to which you need access, offering something back to the research subjects, asking the right time and being as clear as possible about what you are asking for.      

I wrote parent permission letters in Turkish in which I clearly stated that the real names of the school and the students would not be mentioned in the research. In the same letter, I requested permission for recording the interviews.