IntroductionAn EAL student ischaracterised as a ‘pupil whose first language is known or believed to be otherthan English’. The Department for Education (DfE) defines ‘first language’ as’the language to which a child was initially exposed during early developmentand continues to be exposed to this language in the home or in the community’ (DfE, 2013b, p.7).
There are now more than one million learners in UK schools whospeak English as an additional language (EAL). This represents a considerableproportion of the overall school population, well above 15 per cent (British council). In the 2013 school census, the percentage of pupils in English primaryand secondary schools aged 5-16 who are recorded as EAL has more than doubledfrom 7.6% in 1997 to 16.2% in 2013. (Strand, S 2015).
With this changing demographic, schools have to adapt their teaching toincorporate this change, whether it be through differentiation, EAL friendlyteaching practice or employing specialist EAL coordinators to oversee the schoolsstrategy. This report highlights the various challenges facing teachers inregards to EAL students, what policies they can adopt to support EAL studentsin their progress and what impact the changing demographic is having on schoolsand communities. EAL students and the challenges facing teachers. TheGovernment’s policy for children learning English as an additional language isto promote rapid language acquisition and to include them within mainstreameducation as soon as possible’, and that class teachers ‘have responsibilityfor ensuring that pupils can participate in lessons’ (ibid., p.
1 ). Thegreatest obstacle facing teachers when teaching EAL students is the absence ofappropriate and sufficient pupil achievement data (at national, regional and schoollevel), which can be used to measure the link between achievement and factorssuch as English proficiency, length of stay in UK school, national origin,economic and social disadvantage and prior academic achievement. (educam). Insufficient staffassessment and knowledge of their prior learning and attainment, means studentsare not stretched in their ability or struggle to adapt. With an absence of Department for Educationleadership on EAL issues, a number of headteachers feel they lack trustworthy guidanceon the matter (insights 2015). To counter thisthe government has introduced a detailed analysis of EAL students, with schoolsnow required to record the proficiency levels of each student using a newfive-point scale. “The information will be used to helpthe DfE better understand how children with, for example, English as anadditional language, perform in terms of broader learning.
“(gov.co.uk).SupportingEAL studentsEAL teaching has its own distinctivepedagogy. It aims to teach English using the mainstream curriculum as thecontext. This involves developing specific resources, which make thelanguage of the curriculum accessible through, for example, increased use ofvisuals, scaffolding and modelling, while keeping the cognitive challenge andinterest level high (eal britishcouncil).
Some of the key features of EAL pedagogy tosupport students is:· Visuals: the language of visuals is universal. Visuals provide context andaccess for EAL learners who are required to make sense of new information andnew language in order to learn. This enables the language demands of anactivity to be reduced without reducing the cognitive demand.
· Scaffolding:this refers to a variety of techniques usedby the teacher to guide students progressively towards stronger understandingand, ultimately, greater independence in their learning. Scaffolding isimportant for EAL learners as it enables them to move from dependent toindependent learning.· Collaborativegroup work: Allowing EAL pupils to engagecollaboratively in group work is a good way teachers can exhibit inclusivepractice. This empowers each pupil to develop his or her language,thinking, self-concept and relationships as well as allowing them to gaininsights into one another that help to dispel stereotypes (Gardner, 2001: 69) Thechanging demographic and its impact on schools and communitiesWith the expansion of the European Union overthe years, combined with an increase in migration and immigration into the UK,the demographic within schools has changed vastly.
Such a drastic change hasled to concerns that white British children are now lagging behind theirclassmates. According to Dr Timo Hannay, “those schools that have large numbersof non-British white pupils tend to do better than schools that have a smallernumber of them,” (TES). The question would then have to beasked, why would schools with large numbers of EAL students, many of whom learned otherlanguages before learning English, do better academically thansimilar schools catering mainly for native British pupils? Well Dr Hannayattributes this to “immigrant families value education more than some Britishnative families”.
Similarly, when lessons are successfully adapted for them,EAL learners achieve well academically, even outperforming their English mothertongue peers in most boroughs of London (British council). However, research carried out by professorSteve Strand found, achievement of native English speakers does not suffer ifthey attend schools with a high proportion of pupils who speak a differentfirst language (Strand, S). Despite the largeincrease of EAL students into schools over the past decade, there was noevidence to suggest this was a negatively impacting on native English speakers. Conclusion Inclusiveness should be at the heart of a teacher’spractice and the norm iwithn the classroom generally. Teachers largely usea variety of resources, differntiaited appropriatelt to maintain the cognitive challengeand keep student interest high, however they hold greater significance forbilingual/ multi-lingual learners with English as an Additional Language. Therefore a systematic and holistic approach to school provision of support forEAL pupils needs to be taken, as well as more comprehensive and practical trainingfor teachers should be encouraged.