Language is at the heart of school and college life; it is the main medium we use for thinking, learning, and teaching. When considering the inclusion of learners with English as an Additional Language (EAL), this shouldn’t be limited to inside the EAL classroom, but across campus. A whole school approach ensures a cohesive response to diverse learning needs of all students, including those learning with and through EAL.
To contextualise the picture of EAL here in the UK, over 1.5 million pupils are classified as EAL
, with the national average of pupils in secondary schools sitting at around 16%. Developing an EAL policy at your school or college – regardless of the number of pupils – is essential and something which should co-exist with your equality policy. Every education institution needs to be committed to doing the best they can to help and provide for these learners and likewise, are always prepared for new arrivals.
So, what are the whole school approaches we can take to support pupils with EAL? Here are just a few ideas to think about, taken from the webinar Doubling Attainment for EAL at Secondary School
, hosted by Hollie O’Sullivan, Director of EAL at Fortis Academy.
Develop an EAL ethos
EAL departments should already have a vision for EAL and ideally, will have shared this with the rest of the school or college. Use keywords such as ‘welcome’, ‘encourage’ and ‘celebrate’ as a foundation for your ethos. It’s good to display this visually around the school in areas such as visitor reception so that families can clearly see the school’s ethos and feel assured that their child’s learning needs will be supported.
We know that visuals are key for developing pupil learning needs, especially for EAL. Asking all departments to use at least one EAL-friendly display board – for example, adding a few home language translations to their existing displays - will help reinforce the message that they are welcome, and the school or college embraces them. Many new arrivals struggle with feeling as if they don’t belong, so we need to help them feel comfortable and reassured as soon as possible.
Get involved in what other departments are doing around the school. For instance, if the English department is putting out a ‘Word of the Week’ then you could ask to include an EAL translation and celebrate a different language every half term. Putting an EAL stamp on incentives outside of your own department is another great way to help integrate these learners across the school.
It is essential for pupils to learn curriculum vocabulary, but also overwhelming – especially for new arrivals with low levels of English proficiency. Reach out to Heads of Departments and ask for a list of key vocabulary that would be beneficial for EAL learners to know by the time they enter mainstream lessons. Communication across the school is key for not only supporting the pupil but supporting your workload as well.
Getting EAL on the school map
Is there a space somewhere on site for this cohort of learners to adopt and claim as theirs? Outdoor areas which can easily be converted into a ‘garden’ is a great way to not only nurture pupil wellbeing but to also develop skills outside of the classroom.
Coordinators work hard to provide for and support EAL learners, so it’s really important to showcase the provisions you have so everyone can celebrate with you. Having ownership where others in the school know is the ‘EAL space’ is a fun way of getting EAL on the school map.
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