Education Policy: Learners who Use EAL in England

The rich diversity of England’s culture, society and language, which has evolved over centuries, is reflected in schools. Many pupils arrive at school already speaking more than one language, with English being their second, third or fourth language. This linguistic diversity is accompanied by pupils’ diversity in prior exposure to English; prior experiences of schooling, their length of residence in England and their social circumstances. Official figures show a marked increase over the last two decades in the number of pupils who use English as an Additional Language (EAL). There are almost 1.6 million pupils who use EAL in maintained schools in England, a number which has more than doubled since 2006. This makes pupils who use EAL a key characteristic of student bodies in many schools.

National data on the numbers of pupils who use EAL in schools in England is gathered via the school census. The Department for Education (DfE) records a pupil as using EAL if ‘they are exposed to a language at home that is known or believed to be other than English.’ This means that if a pupil is identified as using EAL when they start school at 3-5 years old, they will continue be recorded as an EAL user throughout their education and their life.

EAL in the National Curriculum

There is no specific EAL curriculum, instead the DfE expect that effective teaching and learning for learners using EAL happens through the National Curriculum:

4.5 Teachers must also take account of the needs of pupils whose first language is not English. Monitoring of progress should take account of the pupil’s age, length of time in this country, previous educational experience and ability in other languages.

4.6 The ability of pupils for whom English is an Additional Language to take part in the national curriculum may be in advance of their communication skills in English. Teachers should plan teaching opportunities to help pupils develop their English and should aim to provide the support pupils need to take part in all subjects.

Statutory Guidance, National curriculum in England: Framework for key stages 1 to 4, Updated 2 December 2014

Teacher Standards

The Teachers’ Standards (2012) state that it is the responsibility of all teachers, whatever their subject, to “adapt their teaching to the strengths and needs of all pupils”. Learners who use EAL are mentioned specifically in Section 5: ‘Adapt teaching to respond to the strengths and needs of all pupils’, but there is relevance to teaching and learning for EAL learners throughout the standards.

Standard 5 states that teachers should:

...have a clear understanding of the needs of all pupils, including those with special educational needs; those of high ability; those with English as an Additional Language; those with disabilities; and be able to use and evaluate distinctive teaching approaches to engage and support them.

Standard 3, which expects a teacher to “demonstrate an understanding of and take responsibility for promoting high standards of literacy, articulacy and the correct use of standard English, whatever the teacher’s specialist subject” also goes some way to addressing a need for explicit language teaching, but fails to recognise the unique needs of learners using EAL.

DfE: Teachers’ Standards Guidance for school leaders, school staff and governing bodies July 2011 (introduction updated June 2013)

Education Inspection Framework

The revised Education Inspection Framework (EIF) from Ofsted, which came into effect in 2019, makes no reference to pupils who use English as an Additional Language (EAL) as a distinct group. Instead, the Quality of Education judgement focuses on a school’s ability to offer high-quality, inclusive education and on the extent to which they construct a curriculum that gives all learners the knowledge and cultural capital they need to succeed in life.

See the Foundation’s article in SecEd on the revised Education Inspection Framework (2019).

Current Policies and Funding

The report ‘Educational Outcomes of Children with English as an Additional Language’, published in February 2018 from the Education Policy Institute with The Bell Foundation and Unbound Philanthropy, provides a comprehensive analysis of the current policy and funding available to support learners using EAL.

National Strategies

Between 1999 and 2009 the Department for Education (DfE) and the National Strategy produced extensive guidance and training materials for schools and teachers with a focus on EAL and Black and Minority Ethnic (BAME) learners. Although these materials are no longer in use, they still contain a lot of useful information and resources. Practitioners should, however, use with caution as some materials or information may be out-of-date.

EAL specific materials available in National Archives include:

  • Literacy across the curriculum (2004); intended for the whole school; includes sections on writing non-fiction, reading for information, note taking, grammar for writing
  • Access and Engagement 2002; booklets for Secondary subject teachers on how and why to incorporate EAL teaching strategies into subject teaching. Some pedagogical tips and case studies are included. National archives Access and Engagement
  • Excellence and Enjoyment, Professional Development Modules for Primary schools 2006 - Excellence and Enjoyment and Bilingual pupils in primary years
  • New Arrivals Excellence Programme 2007 (Primary and Secondary). This folder of training materials was for local authority consultants to use with schools for managing the induction and admission of new EAL pupils in many different settings and contexts. New Arrivals Excellence
  • Minority Ethnic Achievement Programme (Pakistani, Bangladeshi, Turkish, Somali) 2008 (Secondary). This project focused on key areas where particular ethnic groups were under attaining and the training materials drew on the successes of the regional consultancy work. MEAP project
  • Ensuring the Attainment of more advanced learners CPD Modules 2008 (Secondary) this training folder was intended for schools to use with English and other subject staff and focused on teaching and learning strategies for advanced reading and writing. Advanced EAL learners