EAL Programme

Working with children who have English as an additional language


About the EAL programme

The number of children with English as an Additional Language (EAL) in UK schools has more than doubled in the last ten years and is over one million pupils. This number continues to increase, and almost a fifth of primary pupils (19.4%) and 15% of UK secondary school pupils are classified as EAL. Children with EAL follow the national curriculum and develop their English language skills at the same time, but there is no national agreement on how teachers can best support them to do this, and the training teachers receive on EAL can be patchy and inconsistent.

At The Bell Foundation we believe that all children, including those with EAL, should get the chance to fulfil their potential. The aspiration of our EAL programme is to improve the educational outcomes of disadvantaged children in the UK who have English as an additional language, in order to benefit the individual child and society as a whole.

The Bell Foundation’s programme for EAL learners began in January 2014, building on lessons learnt from our commissioned research and the pilot phase which aimed to understand the extent of the issues faced by schools, teachers and EAL pupils. The programme initially spans five years from 2014-2019, and has a UK focus only.

Key findings about EAL learners

As highlighted in ‘EAL and educational achievement’, a report commissioned by The Bell Foundation, the Education Endowment Foundation and Unbound Philanthropy, key findings about EAL learners include:

  • Pupils recorded as EAL are very unevenly distributed and concentrations of EAL students can be very specific to a small local area. A quarter of schools (22%) have less than 1% EAL pupils but in 8.4% of schools, EAL pupils make up over half of the school population.
  • There is no evidence that pupils whose first language is English suffer from attending a school with a high proportion of EAL pupils, an outcome that is consistent at both Key Stage 2 (age 7-11) and Key Stage 4 (age 14-16).
  • On average, EAL pupils catch up with their peers by age 16. At age 5 only 44% of EAL pupils have achieved a good level of development compared to 54% of other pupils. By age 16, this gap has narrowed significantly with 58.3% achieving five A*- C GCSEs including English and maths compared to 60.9% of other pupils.
  • Average attainment figures mask a huge range of results for different groups of EAL pupils. Speakers of Portuguese, Somali, Lingala and Lithuanian have especially low outcomes at age 16 but Russian and Spanish speakers do particularly well.

EAL programme objectives

We work in partnership with a range of organisations to achieve the programme’s three objectives:

Objective 1: Capacity building. To support charities and other organisations to do work that improves the educational outcomes of children with EAL by building their capacity and knowledge. This allows us to use existing expertise, learn from what others are doing and make an efficient contribution to the sector. 

Objective 2: Developing and evaluating models of good practice. To support schools and other organisations that work directly with children with EAL. We are working with partners to develop, trial and evaluate different models to find out what works to improve disadvantaged EAL learners’ school results, and help them share best practice with others.

Objective 3: Thought leadership. We work with those who undertake research to learn more about the needs and experiences of children with EAL, and what impacts on their achievement. We fund research and help researchers share what they find with others, so that it can inform future research, policy and practice.

EAL programme highlights

In order to meet our objectives on the EAL programme, we are working on a number of projects with key partners:

Assessment (University of Cambridge, Kings College London) – The National Curriculum does not provide a dedicated EAL assessment framework to assess pupils from linguistically diverse backgrounds when they enter school. The Bell Foundation is funding an eighteen-month EAL assessment project led by experts in the field to develop a national assessment framework. The expert group is formed of Michael Evans (University of Cambridge), Neil Jones Constant Leung (King’s College London) and Yongcan Liu (University of Cambridge). In 2015, the expert group published ‘Guiding Principles of EAL Assessment’.

Initial Teacher Education (University of Edinburgh, University of Leeds) – EAL is poorly addressed in initial teacher education. The Bell Foundation and Unbound Philanthropy responded to the Carter review about this issue in 2014, and are currently funding a project led by Professor Yvonne Foley (University of Edinburgh), which aims to develop and trial a new research-informed model of EAL training for ITE programmes. 

Language for Results: effective support for EAL learners – There are limited continuing professional development opportunities for teachers in the field of EAL and provision in schools varies greatly. Language for Results is a long-term, charitable and evaluated programme which is designed by The Bell Foundation informed by our own expertise, our pilot phase and in-depth research from leading universities – the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge and Anglia Ruskin University.  It aims to improve the attainment of children with EAL. Language for Results is now being trialled and evaluated in a number of UK schools.

EAL Nexus There are limited EAL resources for teachers, pupils and parents. The EAL Nexus website aims to help young EAL learners to access learning materials and to engage in school, community and society, thereby enhancing social cohesion. The site, which is managed by The Bell Foundation and hosted by the British Council, aims to provide practical advice and resources for teachers and parents of EAL learners, and strengthen the capacity of the EAL sector.

EAL programme partners

Working in partnership is important to us. Our partners include academic institutions, charities, specialist EAL organisations and schools. Together, we aim to build a body of evidence and practical initiatives that help schools improve the attainment of children with English as an additional language.

We are currently working in partnership with a wide range of organisations such as:

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