Additional Support in the Classroom

Additional support for learners using EAL in schools in England is often provided by:

  • Specialist EAL teachers
  • Teaching assistants (TAs)
  • Higher-level teaching assistants (HLTAs)
  • Bilingual teaching assistants (BTAs)
  • Peer support
  • Parents

It is very useful for teachers to have the support of additional adults in the classroom, particularly when working with learners using EAL who are New to English or at the Early Acquisition stage. These might be specialist EAL teachers, TAs, BTAs, parents or other students. To be most effective, all additional adults should have access to training about the needs of their learners so that they can support the mainstream teacher in providing effective teaching.

Specialist EAL teachers

Specialist EAL teachers may use a partnership teaching model involving joint planning and team teaching of the lesson with a class or subject teacher. The advantage of the partnership teaching model is that it is beneficial for both practitioners: the mainstream teacher can learn from the EAL specialist, becoming more confident about considering the language content of the curriculum when planning, and more used to employing teaching and learning strategies that support learners using EAL, while the EAL specialist can learn more about curriculum topics and scenarios, and they can apply this knowledge when designing contextualised tasks and other materials. Some local authorities still have a centralised EAL support service who can offer partnership teaching in schools, and there are also EAL specialists who operate as private consultants.

TAs, HLTAs and BLTAs

TAs and/or HLTAs support learners with special or additional educational needs. Some TAs and HLTAs are specialists in working with learners using EAL. The more the TA or BTA is involved in planning, the greater the range of support activities they can offer. At a minimum, they need to be briefed in advance on what the teacher has planned for the lesson so that they can prepare.

TAs can support learners using EAL in class in a range of different ways, for example:

  • Teaching key vocabulary before a topic is taught in class
  • Finding appropriate visuals in advance to help learners access the lesson
  • Observing learners to feed into the mainstream teacher’s assessment and planning
  • Providing language models
  • Facilitating group work in class – not necessarily the same group each time. This can be groups that include learners who can provide good models of English
  • Supporting learners’ effective use of bilingual dictionaries and/or translation software
  • Giving New to English learners an opportunity to rehearse an answer to a question privately before speaking in front of the class
  • Role playing with the class or subject teacher to show what the expectations of a task are, e.g. demonstrating and modelling the expected language for group discussion, “What do you think?” “I don’t really agree with that because …”

In addition to the above, BTAs can:

  • Contribute to school awareness of the needs of bilingual learners
  • Facilitate appropriate use of learners’ other language skills
  • Clarify key words and instructions
  • Use the learners’ first language to explore concepts in greater depth
  • Feed knowledge of learners’ understanding of key concepts into the teacher’s assessment and planning
  • Facilitate liaison with parents
  • Carry out home language assessments
  • Help learners prepare for taking exams in their first language

To find out more about strategies to support learners who use EAL, see the Classroom Support Strategies.

Peer support

Peer support is extremely valuable for learners using EAL, both in terms of pastoral and academic support. Making friends and feeling welcomed is vitally important for newly arrived pupils, particularly if they do not speak much English and have recently moved from another country. It is also very important that they spend time with learners who provide good models of English, learning and behaviour, and have plenty of opportunities to talk. This is one of the reasons why it is important that New to English learners are placed in as high a set as possible; they will be studying with learners of a similar potential and academic ability to themselves, and also have access to good role models. Peer support is also useful for:

  • Paired reading schemes
  • Initiatives and approaches such as Talk Partners and Think Pair Share. These have been widely used in primary schools, and involve pupils talking in pairs during discussion time, and in preparation for writing
  • Pairing learners who share a first language, so they can discuss a topic in more depth in their shared language (to find out more about this, please visit the Great Ideas page on Using Learner’s L1)
  • Peer mentoring schemes
  • ‘Buddying’ systems for induction of new arrivals

To find out more about the positive effect of peer support on EAL students’ linguistic competence, particularly of mixed language friendship groups (L1 and English speaking), please see this report.


Parents can help, especially in primary schools, by going into school to read with children. This can be done in English a well as in a shared first language, with both their own children and other children who speak the same language. Reading to a group or class in the parent’s first language can also be a way to raise awareness of multilingualism as an asset and promote inclusion.

To find out more about how parents can support their children who use EAL, please visit this page.