There are currently over a million children in UK schools for whom English is an additional language (EAL) and this number is rising. Many teachers worry that they lack experience to support EAL children as many have only experienced a small amount of EAL preparation as part of their initial teacher training. The reality is, with some knowledge of the theory behind language acquisition and an understanding of cultural differences between languages, many already have the skills required to support EAL learners because strategies are similar to those already being used in teaching. Effective EAL training brings this together and makes educators stop and think about the complexities of what they are teaching, from a language and cultural point of view.
Teaching schools play a vital role in working with trainees and other staff, offering SLE support and guidance across the consortium. I believe in collaborative learning and training. Where one school is doing something brilliantly then why not share that with other schools that are finding it a challenge?
EAL is an ever-growing area and although funding is often sparse, the challenge to find ways to ensure that these children can access the curriculum is ever present. We will now be able to offer exceptional EAL training, reviews, support and resources that can be used across whole schools.
At our teaching school, we are advocates of inclusive EAL education, finding ways to enable EAL students to remain in the mainstream class and cover the same topics as their peers. Too many schools that our SLEs have visited group EAL students with low ability children, remove them for large amounts of intervention during ‘tricky’ lessons or ‘complicated’ whole class reads. They may even have EAL children focussing on unrelated work. The key is remembering that EAL learners are not low ability, they are just learning another language at the same time as processing the national curriculum.
If you were invited to join a class learning about something in Mauritian Creole, it is likely that you would understand very little on your own. However, this struggle to access the lesson doesn’t make you low ability, you are just new to the language. If you’d had additional support or resources such as flashcards, visuals, a glossary with first language links or a buddy to help you, then you’d have a much better chance of taking something away from it. You’d feel a sense of achievement and consequently improved confidence, even if it was just a few new words in that language.
When planning for EAL learners, it is important to drip in a small amount of support alongside your planning to make their experience more comfortable and to enable them to remain in the lessons, surrounded by good role models of English, as much as possible. Small changes make all the difference and can enable rapid progress. Supporting EAL students should simply be another form of differentiation, enabling them to remain involved in the lesson, but with the scaffolding to achieve the best that they can.
We are so excited to be working in partnership with EAL Hub, founded by Beth Southern, former head of EAL in a large inner-city school with experience of working for numerous councils as an EAL consultant. We’ll introduce Beth in our next blog where she’ll be offering some tips on great ways to teach vocabulary.
For more information about our primary and secondary taster sessions in the Autumn click here or contact us directly on 0161 912 5912.