Introduction to EAL Assessment MOOC (Webinar)
- 29 February 2024
Explore our policy recommendations for breaking down language barriers
in schools, adult education, and the criminal justice system.
Research shows that it is beneficial to provide opportunities for learners to use all their languages to both access the curriculum and to develop their proficiency in English as an Additional Language (EAL). This is because learners’ expertise in their first language/s, for instance, grammatical knowledge, can be used to develop expertise in English also.
In contrast to more traditional approaches that look at one language at a time, Cenoz & Gorter (2011) ‘propose a holistic approach that takes into account all of the languages in the learner's repertoire’. They warn against ‘the monolingual bias’ and explore helpful multilingual practices such as codeswitching and translanguaging, which can be extremely useful in the classroom.
Whilst the benefits of using the first language/s may seem more obvious for learners who are New to English, they also apply to more advanced EAL learners, who may be able to use their first or other languages they know to discuss new concepts and hypotheses in subjects such as science and history; this will enable learners to articulate their thinking at a higher level.
There are many advantages of being bilingual or multilingual – and therefore many reasons why schools should attempt to support and develop the full linguistic repertoire of their learners:
If learners arrive with a solid foundation in their first language and/or other languages, they can transfer the skills learned in one language to help them develop stronger language and literacy abilities in English. Research shows that there is a variation in the attainment of children from particular language groups, with three groups (i.e. Tamil, Chinese and Hindi) having Key Stage 2 attainment above the national expected standard. However, six language groups (i.e. Pashto, Panjabi, Turkish, Portuguese, Czech and Slovak) have attainment below the national expected standard; this suggests that schools need to have full information about learners’ language profiles in order to target EAL support most effectively. Further information can be found in the report ‘Educational Outcomes of Children with English as an Additional Language’ Jo Hutchinson, Education Policy Institute and the Learners with Limited First Language Literacy page.
In his analysis of the National Pupil Database, Strand (2015) found that within the White Other ethnic group, English, Russian, Spanish, French and Italian speakers attained equally well at school overall, with Spanish, Russian and Italian speakers doing better than monolingual English speakers. However, a number of other language groups (e.g. Lithuanian, Polish, Albanian and Romanian) did less well or significantly less well.
In addition, Strand (2015) found that within the Black African ethnic group, there were noticeable differences in attainment depending on language groups, e.g. Igbo and Yoruba speakers achieve as well as English speakers at Key Stage 2 whilst Somali, Lingala and Portuguese speakers achieve less well than Black African English speakers at Key Stage 4.
Pupils using EAL form a diverse group; more information please visit the Diversity of EAL Learners page. Exploring learners’ language backgrounds is essential and ideas to help with this can be found in the New Arrivals and EAL Assessment pages. In order to value linguistic diversity and build on the learners’ prior language skills, teachers should find out as much as they can about learners’ other languages. The more the school engages with parents and learners in a dialogue about home languages, the more accurate their picture of the learner will be and therefore the better the bilingual support which can be provided for the pupil. The use of interpreters is recommended to ensure that the quality of discussions with parents and pupils is optimal.
Bilingual teaching assistants can support learners using their first language or other languages they know. This helps develop a school learning culture which values multilingualism; if teachers and other staff members are also multilingual, these skills can be drawn upon too. Bilingual Teaching Assistants and other multilingual staff have an important role in modelling multilingualism which can encourage learners to draw on their cultural, religious and linguistic knowledge. This helps learners using EAL to access the curriculum and feel more included, leading to higher self-esteem and better academic outcomes.
Bilingual assistants working under the supervision of the class or subject teacher may be able to use the learner’s first language to:
Bilingual teaching assistants can also assist in pastoral support. They may:
For bilingual teaching assistants to be most effective, planning time with the class/subject teacher is crucial. This enables them to: