School Policies

Most schools will have several policies which have relevance to the teaching, learning and well-being of learners who use English as an Additional Language (EAL). Foremost of these will be the equality and diversity policy. Schools in the UK have a statutory obligation under the Equality Act (2010) to promote equality of opportunity for pupils whatever their race, religion or belief as well as other protected characteristics.

In many schools, language will be subsumed within other policies such as literacy and communication. Some schools may include language in their equality policy. For schools with significant numbers of learners who use EAL it is essential to produce a separate EAL or language policy.

Why write a language policy?

Writing a language policy is a way of making an important statement about the kind of school you want to be, whether it is welcoming, inclusive, supportive, multilingual, diverse, or indeed all of the above. But writing the policy is only half the work. It is by actively involving staff and pupils in the design of the policy and by implementing it – from the classroom to the canteen – that the key policy messages will start to resonate around the school and really begin to have a meaningful impact on teaching and learning.

Evans et al (2016) recommended that schools develop “a school-wide language policy in relation to the use of different languages in the school, and…[develop] appropriate approaches to the use of home languages in the school and classroom.”

When creating a school’s language policy, it is also important to consider its wider impact, in terms of whether it ultimately promotes or discourages multilingualism. Research demonstrates 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 (see Multilingual Support page for further information).

Finally, it is crucial to consider – and elicit – learners’ perspectives when creating a language policy; after all, it is for their benefit. Try to think about what the top-level statements mean for the learners, both EAL and non-EAL, in the everyday classroom. Consistency is paramount here. It is important to allow for sufficient flexibility so that teaching and learning support staff are able to make their own professional decisions about what best suits the individual learners in their classes. In addition, the policy also promotes an evidence-informed, whole school approach resulting in consistent, principled and effective practices among teachers.

Developing an EAL policy: Key questions and considerations

1. Introduction / Mission statement

Consider what the school’s position is on the following:

  • Language and identity
  • Use of the students’ own language(s)
  • Provision for pupils developing EAL
  • Access to the curriculum
  • Diversity, equality and inclusion
  • Overall approach to EAL across the whole school

2. Statement of aims and commitment

What is the school aiming to achieve? What is the role of language(s) in the school? How should this language policy be used and interpreted?

3. Context

Provide information about the local context, the history and diversity of language and culture in your Local Authority area.

Include a definition of EAL, the Government defines EAL learners as:

‘A pupil is recorded to have English as an additional language if they are exposed to a language at home that is known or believed to be other than English. This measure is not a measure of English language proficiency or a good proxy for recent immigration.’ (DfE Schools, Pupils and their Characteristics July 2020)

Give further information about the specific school context:

  • The number of languages spoken in the school
  • The number/percentage of pupils who are New to English or in the Early Acquisition stages and require significant support to access the curriculum
  • The number/percentage of pupils who are Developing Competence in EAL and require on-going support to access the curriculum
  • The number/percentages of pupils who are Competent or Fluent users of EAL and require some support to access the curriculum
  • The number/percentage of learners using EAL who qualify for Pupil Premium

4. Key principles for second language acquisition

What are the key messages to include in the policy with regard to:

  • Additional language acquisition
  • Home language maintenance
  • An inclusive curriculum

5. EAL teaching and learning

Consider:

  • Strategies for supporting access to the mainstream curriculum
  • Teacher expectations
  • Classroom organisation
  • Supporting higher achieving learners
  • Planning for language learning
  • Use of EAL assessment to inform teaching and learning

6. Planning, monitoring and evaluation for EAL

Refer to:

  • Target-setting – curricular and linguistic
  • Observing, tracking, monitoring
  • Record-keeping
  • Curriculum planning

7. Special Educational Needs and Gifted and Talented Pupils

Consider the following questions:

  • Is it made it clear that SEN and EAL are not the same?
  • Do pupils using EAL on either register (SEN or Gifted & Talented) have equal access to the school’s provision?
  • Are pupils using EAL fairly represented on these registers?
  • Are pupils with EAL fairly represented in intervention groups? If not, are there good reasons for this?

8. Assessment and record keeping

Refer to:

9. Resources

What is provided in terms of:

  • Support staff for pupils using EAL
  • Access to Dictionaries
  • Dual language resources
  • Visual support
  • Peer support (e.g. Young Interpreters scheme)
  • Intervention groups
  • Funding – how is Pupil Premium used?

10. Parents/carers and the wider community

How will the school welcome and encourage parents to become involved in the life of the school?

11. Key responsibilities and staff development

How will the school ensure there is an effective staff structure in place to support learners using EAL, and how will the school ensure staff are informed about best practice in this area?

  • EAL co-ordinator
  • EAL teacher/support staff
  • Teaching colleagues
  • Teaching support staff
  • Other support staff

12. Monitoring, review and evaluation of the policy

When will the policy be reviewed and evaluated? By whom?