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What does EAL really mean and what should we do about it?

Written by: Graham Smith
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7 min read
Graham Smith, Director, The EAL Academy, UK The 2021 school census (DfE, 2021a) records 316 languages spoken by pupils and acknowledges that there are more. It tells us that pupils with English as an additional language (EAL) make up 19 per cent of the state school population in England, pupils with free school meals 21 per cent and pupils with SEND 12 per cent. For the last two of these groups of pupils, additional funding is available throughout their time in school. For EAL pupils, much lower levels of funding are available and only for their first three years in school. EAL is not a condition that can be fixed by a bit of extra support for three years. It is a very positive fact of life in multilingual Britain. I will argue that the best EAL practice involves strategic thinking about pupils and the multilingual environment that they inhabit. It is not about three years of acquiring enough English. After all, what is enough English? Lynne Cameron and Sharon Besser’s study (2004)

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