Introduction can be used to measure the link between

Introduction

An EAL student is
characterised as a ‘pupil whose first language is known or believed to be other
than English’. The Department for Education (DfE) defines ‘first language’ as
‘the language to which a child was initially exposed during early development
and 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 who
speak English as an additional language (EAL). This represents a considerable
proportion of the overall school population, well above 15 per cent (British council). In the 2013 school census, the percentage of pupils in English primary
and secondary schools aged 5-16 who are recorded as EAL has more than doubled
from 7.6% in 1997 to 16.2% in 2013. (Strand, S 2015).  With this changing demographic, schools have to adapt their teaching to
incorporate this change, whether it be through differentiation, EAL friendly
teaching practice or employing specialist EAL coordinators to oversee the schools
strategy. This report highlights the various challenges facing teachers in
regards to EAL students, what policies they can adopt to support EAL students
in their progress and what impact the changing demographic is having on schools
and communities.

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EAL students and the challenges facing teachers.

 The
Government’s policy for children learning English as an additional language is
to promote rapid language acquisition and to include them within mainstream
education as soon as possible’, and that class teachers ‘have responsibility
for ensuring that pupils can participate in lessons’ (ibid., p.1 ). The
greatest obstacle facing teachers when teaching EAL students is the absence of
appropriate and sufficient pupil achievement data (at national, regional and school
level), which can be used to measure the link between achievement and factors
such as English proficiency, length of stay in UK school, national origin,
economic and social disadvantage and prior academic achievement. (educam). Insufficient staff
assessment and knowledge of their prior learning and attainment, means students
are not stretched in their ability or struggle to adapt.

With an absence of Department for Education
leadership on EAL issues, a number of headteachers feel they lack trustworthy guidance
on the matter (insights 2015). To counter this
the government has introduced a detailed analysis of EAL students, with schools
now required to record the proficiency levels of each student using a new
five-point scale. “The information will be used to help
the DfE better understand how children with, for example, English as an
additional language, perform in terms of broader learning.”(gov.co.uk).

Supporting
EAL students

EAL teaching has its own distinctive
pedagogy. It aims to teach English using the mainstream curriculum as the
context. This involves developing specific resources, which make the
language of the curriculum accessible through, for example, increased use of
visuals, scaffolding and modelling, while keeping the cognitive challenge and
interest level high (eal britishcouncil). Some of the key features of EAL pedagogy to
support students is:

·       Visuals: the language of visuals is universal. Visuals provide context and
access for EAL learners who are required to make sense of new information and
new language in order to learn. This enables the language demands of an
activity to be reduced without reducing the cognitive demand.

·      Scaffolding:
this refers to a variety of techniques used
by the teacher to guide students progressively towards stronger understanding
and, ultimately, greater independence in their learning. Scaffolding is
important for EAL learners as it enables them to move from dependent to
independent learning.

·       Collaborative
group work: Allowing EAL pupils to engage
collaboratively in group work is a good way teachers can exhibit inclusive
practice.  This empowers each pupil to develop his or her language,
thinking, self-concept and relationships as well as allowing them to gain
insights into one another that help to dispel stereotypes (Gardner, 2001: 69)

 

The
changing demographic and its impact on schools and communities

With the expansion of the European Union over
the years, combined with an increase in migration and immigration into the UK,
the demographic within schools has changed vastly. Such a drastic change has
led to concerns that white British children are now lagging behind their
classmates. According to Dr Timo Hannay, “those schools that have large numbers
of non-British white pupils tend to do better than schools that have a smaller
number of them,” (TES). The question would then have to be
asked, why would schools with large numbers of EAL students, many of whom learned other
languages before learning English, do better academically than
similar schools catering mainly for native British pupils? Well Dr Hannay
attributes this to “immigrant families value education more than some British
native families”. Similarly, when lessons are successfully adapted for them,
EAL learners achieve well academically, even outperforming their English mother
tongue peers in most boroughs of London (British council).

 

However, research carried out by professor
Steve Strand found, achievement of native English speakers does not suffer if
they attend schools with a high proportion of pupils who speak a different
first language (Strand, S). Despite the large
increase of EAL students into schools over the past decade, there was no
evidence to suggest this was a negatively impacting on native English speakers.

 

 

Conclusion

 

Inclusiveness should be at the heart of a teacher’s
practice and the norm iwithn the classroom generally. Teachers largely use
a variety of resources, differntiaited appropriatelt to maintain the cognitive challenge
and keep student interest high, however they hold greater significance for
bilingual/ multi-lingual learners with English as an Additional Language. 
Therefore a systematic and holistic approach to school provision of support for
EAL pupils needs to be taken, as well as more comprehensive and practical training
for teachers should be encouraged.