20th March 2020

Blog: From a Prisoner of War to Language Pioneer – Frank Bell’s vision lives on

I am writing this blog at the end of my first week working in what has rapidly become the new normal.  Meetings have gone online, staff are at home, schools have closed for all but key workers, and people are trying to manage remote working around families, pets, many weeks of children at home or on their own.  At least the upside of having teenagers around the house is they can help sort the IT challenges!

As I write this I am mindful of our organisation’s history and our founder Frank Bell.  Frank Bell was held captive in a prisoner of war camp in the second world war.   To survive he and his fellow inmates established an “Undercover University”.  Teaching was forbidden in the prisoner of war camp, however as a means of survival, they taught each other languages, history and public speaking, topics would have been suggested based on the experiences and expertise of fellow prisoners and as varied as farming, banking and journalism. After the war, Frank Bell returned to Cambridge and established a school to teach language to promote intercultural understanding between nationalities.   The charity today continues Frank Bell’s vision through our programmes supporting teachers and schools, and prisoners and victims of crime.

How relevant our founder’s experience seems today when conditions for teaching and learning are challenging.  We have a wealth of free resources and information available to support EAL learners as well as online training opportunities and webinars.

  • The EAL Nexus site has a multitude of free resources (for different subjects, age groups etc), great ideas, advice and guidance
  • Our website includes a free to download EAL Assessment Framework and digital Tracker which automatically pulls through support strategies tailored to the individual learner
  • Our next free webinar ‘Developing induction programmes for newly arrived pupils using EAL’, will take place between 4-5pm on Thursday 16 April 2020 – you can find out more and book your place:
  • All of our webinar recordings which cover both research and best practice are free to access and might also be useful
  • We are running an ‘Embedding EAL Assessment’ online course in June.  This online course aims to support schools to embed effective practices for assessing the English language proficiency of pupils using EAL
  • There are a number of blogs on our website already and we aim to post regularly on the site
  • The ‘Covid-19 support for parents’ page on the British Council’s Learn English Kids website provides an activity to review vocabulary, and is suitable for all, including pupils who do not have access to the internet
  • You may also be interested in a curated list of resources for use by EAL learners and their families during school closures in NALDIC’s EAL Journal blog 

In future blogs and communications we will provide further information and resources which are available to support those teachers and schools working with EAL learners.    As our organisation’s founder showed, learning can continue even in the most adverse circumstances.

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Author: Diana Sutton, Director, The Bell Foundation