According to a recent study, there are now more than a million pupils in UK schools who speak English as an additional language (EAL), which forms around 15% of the total school population. EAL learners come from a vast range of backgrounds - they include asylum seekers, economic migrants and the children of diplomats. At the present time, most teachers in UK schools will have at least one EAL pupil in their class.
We spoke to Diane Leedham, an education consultant and local authority lead for EAL about how pupils for whom English is not a first language can be supported to access the curriculum.
Diane said that pupils with EAL will have a wide variety of needs, and will have strengths and weaknesses in different skills.
She recommended having an initial meeting with the parents of a pupil with EAL, using an interpreter if necessary. This is important to understand the pupil’s starting point and context, and to get to know them as an individual.
An individual approach
The school should try to find out about the pupil’s:
- Personality, for example whether they are normally shy or outspoken
- Proficiency in their native language, and whether they have any issues with articulation or fluency
- Educational background, including whether they have attended school before and whether they may have an existing special educational need (SEN)
- Experience of language at home, including how proficient the pupil's parents are in English
- Such factors will help the school identify the skills that the pupil needs to develop in order to effectively access the curriculum. She added that these pupils' needs will also be informed by the demands of the curriculum.
Mixing with the rest of the class
Diane recommended seating new learners who have EAL with the most fluent English speakers in the class. She cautioned against seating all EAL pupils together, as this will not help develop their English language skills. She said that support from another EAL learner with the same first language can be useful to a new pupil with little to no English, particularly where the other pupil has a much higher fluency in English.
Diane also recommended that whole-school activities were adapted to individual pupils. Class teachers must ensure that they are maintaining a high level of cognitive challenge while also allowing pupils to access the same content as the rest of the class.
They could allow pupils to express their learning in a different way, for example by using visual cues, gap-fill exercises, sentence frames and word cards.
Many of the techniques aimed at teaching EAL learners can also be beneficial to pupils who do not have EAL, particularly in a primary school setting where all children are learning literacy and language. She added that allowing pupils to express some ideas in their first language can help motivate pupils and move learning forwards.
Have your own strategies to share on supporting pupils with EAL? Contact us on: email@example.com.
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