There are now more than one million learners in UK schools who speak English as an additional language (EAL). This represents a considerable proportion of the school population. In our school population, we have 15 per cent of children who have English as an Additional Language.
Our EAL learners come from very diverse backgrounds. Some arrive seeking asylum, while others follow families coming to the UK as economic migrants or for other reasons. EAL learners also include those who were born and raised in the UK speaking a language other than English. The most common first languages spoken by EAL learners in our school include Polish, Punjabi, Urdu, Arabic, French, German, Mandarin Chinese, Portuguese, Spanish and Dutch. We do however have a growing number of different languages being spoken in our school - you can tell this by the number of different flags that hang throughout our corridor.
Most classes in our school have EAL learners in them. As with other groups of learners, our teachers adapt their lessons to make sure that all learners can get the most out of lessons. They do this by involving learners in activities where the language is challenging but appropriate to their abilities and interests. All of our teachers have received training in EAL and we have two champions for EAL in our school who offer to support to other teachers if they need it with planning and resources.
We as a school also get support of experts from our Local Authority. This service is called EMTAS (Ethnic Minority and Traveller Achievement Service) .
We evaluated our EAL provision in school and have identified the following areas of success:
An areas we are developing is:
How can teachers best meet the needs of EAL learners?
Certain principles help teachers adapt their lessons to the needs of EAL learners. By following these, teachers can help these children reach their educational goals and play a positive part in our school life, the community and society as a whole.
The potential among EAL learners for bilingualism is particularly important, as it increases mental ability such as problem-solving and creativity. Bilingualism gives EAL learners a fantastic advantage when looking for a job later on, too. Our teachers therefore consider the role of learners’ first language and be aware that the acquisition of a new language goes hand-in-hand with cognitive and academic development.
Here are some of the main principles of EAL teaching in our school:
Our EAL learners are an asset to our school and our community
EAL learners have brought a new dimension to our school. These children can share experiences and cultures from other countries and bring an international perspective, helping their peers understand different cultures, people and points of view better. Our EAL learners also have extra language skills they can share and bring to the school and to the UK when they grow up.
Finally, when lessons are successfully adapted for them, EAL learners achieve well academically, even outperforming their English mother tongue peers as seen in our own school's data analysis.