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Supporting EAL Learners in Your School

English as an Additional Language (EAL)

The Department of Education definition of a pupil with English as an Additional one ‘who has been exposed to a language other than English during early childhood and continues to be exposed to this language in the home or the community.’

The latest school census 2020 data indicates that there are more than 1.6 million pupils in the UK recorded as having English as an additional language, this equates to 19.5% of the overall pupil population.

Who Are the EAL Pupils in Our Schools?

English as an additional language covers a diverse group and will include pupils:

  • born in the UK
  • recently arrived in the UK due to personal, professional, or economic choice
  • those fleeing persecution including refugees or seeking asylum
  • those new to English
  • developing proficiency in English
  • who have English as a main language but not yet at age expected proficiency
  • who are advanced or fluent bilingual/multilingual in English and other language/s
  • those familiar with Latin-based script, used to different alphabets or have no literacy in any language.

Teachers' Duties

Teachers have a duty to meet the needs of EAL pupils under the Equality Act 2010 (protected characteristic of Race), National Curriculum (4.5, 4.6), Teachers Standards (standards 3, 5).

How Can the Equality Diversity Inclusion Team Help?

The Equality Diversity Inclusion Team (EDIT) offer consultancy, advice, support and training (both bespoke and through our training courses) to help staff in schools meet the needs of all EAL pupils.

EDIT also offer 1-1 pupil and group support to individual EAL pupils who need extra input to accelerate progress and reduce the gap between this group of learners and others.

Pedagogy and Practice for Refugees and New Arrivals

With the number of pupils with English as an additional language including refugees and unaccompanied asylum seeking children and young people increasing from year to year, schools continue to welcome new arrivals from other countries and strive to meet their needs.

Meeting the Needs of New Arrivals

These can vary as the new arrivals in your schools may be facing several challenges including:

  • learning English as an additional language
  • difficulties in managing the transition to a new country
  • feelings of insecurity or trauma due to prior experiences
  • isolation and lack of friends
  • separation from one or both parents, general changes in family situation
  • no previous schooling due to a different starting age in their home country
  • little, no or fractured previous education due to lack of opportunities or instability in their home country
  • different style or emphasis of prior education
  • feeling misunderstood, undervalued, or alienated if they cannot see their culture, language, experiences reflected around the school or in the classroom
  • facing racism in or out of school.

Ten Top Tips for Supporting New Arrivals

Teach your class to say hello/words/phrases in the new pupil’s language. Learn to say their name correctly.

Organise buddies, one child will find this tiring; train and reward the buddies.

Meet the family to get background information, use an interpreter if necessary, and arrange for a tour of the school on the same day. Keep the parents/carers informed of progress, they will be anxious too.

Prepare a box of activities, books, puzzles that the pupil can access easily and provide a rest from lessons.

All pupils learn best when they are in class with their peers, ensure that any pre-teaching withdrawal time is targeted, meaningful and time limited.

Group new arrivals with pupils who will be good language and behaviour models, not with the lowest ability children.

Understand the pressures and changes the pupil will be experiencing, this can be exhausting. Keep activities short, they may be tired or go through a silent period.

Find information out about their language, encourage the pupil to rehearse their learning in language one and provide bilingual dictionaries.

Use simple sentences or phrases to model language structures. Re-model language rather than correct mistakes and allow thinking time!

Enhance classroom resources to enable the pupil to access learning, use visuals and graphic organisers. Ensure the environment reflects their cultural and linguistic diversity.

… and lastly create opportunities for the new arrival to succeed every day eg handing out resources.

How Can the Equality Diversity Inclusion Team Help?

The Equality Diversity Inclusion Team offer consultancy, individual pupil/group support and training to ensure that:

  • the emotional and social needs of these children are met, by providing a robust induction process involving the child, family, appropriate staff and pupils within the school or setting
  • schools and settings can accurately assess both the linguistic and cognitive ability of the pupils to ensure that they are in the correct group/sets
  • teaching and learning strategies enable new arrivals to access the curriculum from day one
  • all staff understand EAL pedagogy.

Improving Literacy Skills for Advanced Learners

Many schools will have advanced bilingual learners who have either been speaking English all their lives alongside their home language or who have been in an English-speaking education system for a number of years.

Children and young people are quick to pick up everyday language often referred to as basic interpersonal communicative skills (BICS), this means that they have developed conversational fluency and will be able to chat to other pupils and teachers in social situations and generally get by in class.

However in order for these pupils to catch up with their peers in more academic aspects of school language they will need a direct, structured and scaffolded approach in order to build on their language of learning and develop cognitive and academic language proficiency (CALP) which is the key to cognitive development and realising educational potential.

How Can the Equality Diversity Inclusion Team Help?

The Equality Diversity Inclusion Team’s Advisory Teachers provide support to schools to ensure best outcomes for advanced bilingual learners, developing pupils' speaking and listening, reading, and writing skills across different genres and across all subject areas.

This can include:

  • embedding ‘All Teachers are Language Teachers’
  • workshops with subject leaders to identify subject specific academic language
  • individual pupil and group support
  • modelling practical strategies, activities and learning opportunities which will promote the engagement and accelerate the progress of all pupils with low literacy skills
  • bespoke and centralised training. During the session the delegates will:
    • increase awareness of EAL pedagogy and key points around second language acquisition
    • develop an understanding of academic literacies
    • explore strategies to develop academic literacy in different subject areas.


Robust English as an Additional Language (EAL) assessments and an understanding of EAL pedagogy are essential if schools are to understand how to accurately measure a pupil’s proficiency in English of both beginners in English and more advanced EAL Learners.

How Can the Equality Diversity Inclusion Team Help?

The Equality Diversity Inclusion Team (EDIT) provide bespoke inhouse support to ensure that staff in schools can independently and accurately assess EAL pupils.

This can include:

  • classroom observations to note engagement in class with peers and staff
  • consultations on background information that needs to be collected
  • advice on available EAL assessment tools – which would best suit the needs of the school
  • modelling of EAL assessments using the schools preferred EAL assessment tool
  • advice on setting smart targets and planning next steps
  • regular reviews of pupil progress
  • in school drop ins for all staff to discuss targeted pupils.

EDIT also offer training, both bespoke and centralised training. 
During the session staff will:

  • be introduced to a range of assessment tools that enable teachers to effectively monitor and evaluate the attainment of EAL learners
  • be able to set appropriate targets for individual EAL learners
  • identify effective EAL strategies which will accelerate the progress of EAL learners enabling them to reach their targets and for teachers to plan next steps.

SEND/EAL Identification

Teachers in schools and staff in settings are often concerned when a child or young person who has English as an additional language is not making expected progress.  It is often difficult to identify if the delay is caused because they lack the language of learning in English, they have special education needs or indeed if the pupil has both EAL and SEN.

How Can the Equality Diversity Inclusion Team Help?

The Equality Diversity Inclusion Team has highly experienced and qualified Advisory Teachers who provide support to schools and settings to resolve these questions.

This can include:

  • consultations with teachers, Inclusion Leads and SENCOs
  • pupil observations in class
  • modelling an assessment using our identification tool: Language, culture, or special needs?
  • guidelines for professionals in schools and early years settings
  • training and/or bespoke training to your school or setting, covering:
    • raising awareness of the differences between English as an additional language and special educational needs during the development of communication, language and literacy skills
    • exploring the complexities surrounding effective identification of special educational needs in a child/young person with English as an additional language
    • familiarization with effective identification procedures.

Important to note:

“Identifying and assessing special educational needs for children or young people whose first language is not English requires particular care. Schools should look carefully at all aspects of a child or young person’s performance in different areas of learning and development or subjects to establish whether lack of progress is due to limitations in their command of English or if it arises from special educational needs or a Disability. Difficulties related solely to limitations in English as an additional language are not special educational needs.”

6.24 Special Education Needs and Disability Code of Practice: 0 to 25 years January 2015

EDIT E-learning Modules

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