News: The Bell Foundation launches new tools to support teachers in multilingual classrooms

To help teachers better assess the language development needs of their pupils for whom English is an Additional Language (EAL), The Bell Foundation has, today, launched new, free EAL assessment and reporting tools.

As term gets underway many teachers will be preparing lessons for increasingly diverse, multilingual and multicultural classrooms, some for the first time.  To help teachers better assess the language development needs of their pupils for whom English is an Additional Language (EAL), The Bell Foundation has, today, launched new, free EAL assessment and reporting tools which provide teachers with the resources they need to target appropriate support, within the context of the curriculum, to help their learners fulfil their potential.  As the Teachers’ Standards (2012)¹ state, it is the responsibility of all teachers, whatever their subject, to ‘adapt their teaching to the strengths and needs of all pupils including those with English as an Additional Language’.

However, research on English as an Additional Language and Initial Teacher Education² has shown that not all teachers feel prepared for this scenario.  It found that at the end of their training around a fifth of student educators still had little confidence in their ability to support EAL learners and 13% felt they still had very little or no understanding of the needs of these learners.  In addition, research has also found that ‘additional training to support EAL and SEN pupils were the areas of need most frequently citied by teachers in England’ with around 30% of primary and lower-secondary teachers ‘suggesting they needed to develop their skills in teaching EAL pupils’³.

This is understandable given that there are over 1.5mn(4) children who are identified by the Department for Education as using EAL because they have been ‘exposed to a language at home that is known or believed to be other than English’.  This is a hugely diverse group.  Their English language skills, age of arrival in the English school system, previous personal and educational experience, and their first language all contribute to that diversity(5).  This means that children using EAL will include both a refugee who has fled war and persecution, who has had little education in their country of origin and speaks no English, and a fluent multilingual English-speaker, who speaks for example both Mandarin and English at home.

Forthcoming research further supports previous findings that show there is a strong link between proficiency in the English language and educational attainment(6).  Pupils who are new to English or just starting to acquire the language attain below the national average, whilst at the other end of the scale fluent, multilingual speakers typically attain above the national average.  This shows that being multilingual brings significant advantages once proficiency is reached.  Therefore, the key to supporting this heterogeneous group is to establish the proficiency in English of each learner.

“Unfortunately, in 2018 the Department for Education withdrew the requirement for schools to record the proficiency in English of their pupils in the School Census.  This was a retrograde step as this is a key part of understanding needs and targeting appropriate resources and support.  Therefore, we strongly recommend that schools continue with valid and reliable assessment to ensure learners using EAL can fully access the curriculum and fulfil their potential.” Diana Sutton, Director, The Bell Foundation.

EAL Assessment helps teachers establish a learner’s current proficiency in English language, alongside other background information, to inform individually tailored targets and support strategies for teaching and learning, ultimately allowing learners to develop their language skills to be successful in school.  One solution to achieving this goal is Version 2.0 of The Bell Foundation’s award-winning, free EAL Assessment Framework for Schools.  The Assessment Framework, developed with busy teachers in mind with a team of academics from King’s College London and the University of Cambridge, includes early years foundation stage, primary and secondary support strategies and provides practical ways to support EAL learners at each stage of their language development.

“It has helped the EAL department show real progress from our students, as opposed to tracking them against the National Curriculum. Using the old system we couldn't see the progress as much but with The Bell Foundation assessment we can share the results with the students and parents to show real progress.”  EAL co-ordinator

As a result of feedback from teachers, Version 2.0 of the Framework is now complimented by a free interactive digital EAL Assessment Tracker which:

  • Supports teachers in undertaking initial and on-going assessment
  • Automatically pulls through relevant support strategies for the learner
  • Gives a best fit judgement of current progress, on a termly basis
  • Produces reports which can be printed and shared with teachers as well as parents which supports the needs, and benefits, of parental engagement

The Bell Foundation:

  • Urges the Department for Education to reintroduce the Proficiency in English Scale as it is proficiency in English that is central to understanding achievement and levels of support needed
  • Recommend that schools continue to assess the language proficiency of their EAL learners in order to provide the right support to enable the learner to continue to learn English whilst simultaneously learning subject content through English

¹ ‘Teachers’ Standards: guidance for school leaders, school staff and governing bodies’, Department for Education (2012)
² ‘English as an Additional Language and Initial Teacher Education’, Foley, Y. (2018)
³ ‘The Teaching and Learning International Survey (TALIS) 2018’, Jerrim, J. and Sims, S. (2019)
4 ‘Schools, pupils and their characteristics: January 2019’, Department for Education (2019)
5 ‘Educational Outcomes of Children with English as an Additional Language’, Hutchinson, J (2018)
6 ‘English as an Additional Language, proficiency in English and pupils’ educational achievement: An analysis of Local Authority data’, Strand, S and Hessel, A (2018)

Notes to Editor

About The Bell Foundation

The Bell Foundation aims to overcome exclusion through language education by working with partners on innovation, research, training and practical interventions.  Through generating and applying evidence, we aim to change practice, policy and systems for children, adults and communities with English as an Additional Language in the UK.

The EAL Assessment Framework and EAL Assessment Tracker can be downloaded for free from The Bell Foundation’s website.

Media enquiries should be directed to Julia Shervington, Communications Manager, or call 01223 275503 / 07713 401468