Supporting students with English as an Additional Language (EAL)

Introduction

This collection is part of a series of bitesize CPD units to support teaching assistants (TAs) with their professional learning journey. These units offer insights into best practice in supporting children and young people, building on the latest evidence base. They are designed to develop knowledge around a range of topics relevant to TAs.

These topics include:

  • Supporting students with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND)
  • Supporting students with English as an Additional Language (EAL)
  • Supporting students to develop literacy and numeracy skills
  • Fostering positive relationships and learning environments
  • Working effectively with teachers, parents and the wider community 
  • Developing effective learners
  • Developing curriculum knowledge 

 

These CPD units incorporate a range of content types to support professional learning and reflective practice, including:

  • Research summaries and reviews that summarise the latest evidence base
  • Case studies from practising TAs, teachers and school leaders
  • Webinars and video content delivered by leading experts in the field  
  • Reflective questions to support the learning
  • Reading lists signposting further sources and support

 

Whilst much of the content is from the perspective of researchers, school leaders and teachers, it is both useful and relevant to TAs. Moving forward, we would like to expand our knowledge base by including voices and expertise of TAs. 

Supporting students with English as an additional language (EAL)

The term ‘EAL’ is used to describe a diverse group of students who speak English as an additional language. In England, students with EAL are defined as those who are ‘exposed to a language at home that is known or believed to be other than English’ (DfE, 2022). The term ‘EAL’ can therefore be applied to students who are new to English but also include those who are fluent. In England, the number of students with EAL is steadily increasing. In the 2021/2022 school census, almost a fifth of students attending state-funded schools spoke English as an additional language (DfE, 2022). This suggests that there is an increasing need for high-quality training and resources to address the needs of this diverse group of students. 

Studies continue to highlight that proficiency in English is the best indicator of future academic success (Strand & Lindorff, 2021). However, addressing the needs of students from a diverse range of cultural and linguistic backgrounds, with different abilities and proficiencies in English poses a significant challenge. This challenge is argued to be compounded by a lack of funding and a deficit in specialist knowledge in mainstream settings (Hutchinson, 2018). With numbers of students steadily increasing and a lack of resources and funding, in recent years, teaching assistants are more frequently tasked with supporting children and adolescents with EAL (Clifford-Swann et al., 2021). Consequently, this unit seeks to support teaching assistants by developing their knowledge of the current context and provide the tools to identify and address the needs of this diverse group of students.

Moving forward, we hope to build on this knowledge base by drawing on the experience and expertise of TAs supporting students with EAL. We invite you to use the attached padlet to begin sharing your reflections, experiences and expertise to support other teaching assistants with their professional learning journey: https://padlet.com/charteredcollege/hvz4rv68yyu9bd6w

References

Clifford-Swann, J., Heslop, K. and Ranson, F. (2021) ‘Investigating the impact of a specialist CPD training programme for Teaching Assistants, related to supporting children with English as an Additional Language’, Work Based Learning e-Journal International. 10.1 (2021): 1-34. (online) https://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/EJ1305232.pdf (accessed on 31.10.22)

Department of Education (DfE) (2022) ‘School Workforce in England’ (online) ​​https://explore-education-statistics.service.gov.uk/find-statistics/school-pupils-and-their-characteristics (accessed on 31.10.22)

Hutchinson, J. (2018) ‘Educational Outcomes of Children with English as an Additional Language’, Education Policy Institute. (online) https://epi.org.uk/publications-and-research/educational-outcomes-children-english-additional-language/ (accessed on 31.10.22)

Strand, S. & Lindorff, A. (2021) ‘English as an Additional Language, Proficiency in English and rate of progression: Pupil, school and LA variation’, The Bell Foundation & Oxford University. (online) https://www.bell-foundation.org.uk/app/uploads/2021/03/University-of-Oxford-Report-March-2021.pdf  (accessed on 31.10.22)

Case studies and articles

Hear about a range of approaches used to support students with EAL. The first article – ‘What does EAL really mean and what should we do about it’ – provides a clear overview of the current context in England. It also outlines the complexities of meeting the diverse set of needs of these students and offers some useful suggestions for further reading. Similarly, whilst it is written for early career teachers, the article – ‘Supporting learners who use English as an additional language’ – may prove to be a good starting point for your learning journey. The other articles discuss a broad range of strategies to support students with EAL in the mainstream classroom whilst other articles explore approaches to support specific students e.g. refugees and asylum seekers. 

We acknowledge the majority of case studies are written from the perspective of school leaders and teachers; however, they remain both useful and relevant to TAs. Moving forward, we would like to expand our knowledge base by including the voices and expertise of practising TAs. 

We invite you to make notes on the approaches taken in these case studies to inform your own next steps and consider how you might apply some of these insights in your setting.

 You could also consider the following questions:

  • What are the current challenges in supporting students with EAL in your classroom and wider school? 
  • Are there any strategies from the learning that could contribute to overcoming these challenges?
What does EAL really mean and what should we do about it?
Supporting learners who use English as an additional language
Integrating inclusive practice for EAL students: All phases
It’s easier to be what you can see: Supporting EAL learners in multilingual classrooms
Identifying ‘good practice’ language acquisition strategies in English as an additional language (EAL) classrooms in Spain
|FIGURE 1 shows different approaches to viewing children with EAL. Deficit lens includes: Weaknesses and Can’t do. Assets lens includes: Talents
Equity and English as an additional language: Looking beyond deficit and asset lenses
Supporting students who use English as an additional language: Lightening the cognitive load
Creating possible spaces with possible learners: Exploring how refugee young people negotiate ‘educational help’
Drawing on teachers’ professional expertise to develop an impactful EAL policy
Using live feedback and real-time data to support English language learners in one-to-one settings
Drawing on linguistic and cultural capital to create positive learning cultures for EAL learners
Encouraging reading comprehension in learners of English as an additional language
Addressing the vocabulary gap using the Pattern Grammar approach
Technology for active learning: Using iPads to support learners with English as an additional language
Does teaching consonant clusters systematically aid decoding?
English and other languages: Is it really a world of difference?

Research summaries and reviews

Read the research and evidence that informs best practice in EAL education. Research summaries are short articles that summarise findings from a single research article. Research reviews are longer articles that critically evaluate the evidence on a larger research theme. 

Some of the articles below explore approaches that specifically support students with EAL. Other articles discuss broader pedagogical approaches that support the development of language and literacy, including dialogic teaching, explicit vocabulary teaching and shared reading. 

We invite you to read the research and consider the following questions:

  • In what ways has this learning resonated with your existing knowledge about students with additional needs or perhaps shifted your thinking? 
  • How might you begin to apply this learning in your context?
Multilingual Thinking in Multicultural Classrooms
Combatting language poverty: improving oracy and dialogic skills in schools
Using linguistic ethnography as a tool to analyse dialogic teaching in upper primary classrooms
What do the concepts of ‘home’ and ‘belonging’ mean for children from different European countries?
Enacting cultural literacy as a dialogic social practice: The role of provisional language in classroom talk
Dialogic and shared reading for young children to support language and literacy
Supporting reading comprehension through the development of spoken language skills
Explicit vocabulary teaching
Reading: Developing comprehension and inference
Great teaching techniques: Whole-class reading
Fridge magnet collapsed letters
Great teaching techniques: Deliberate vocabulary development

Reflective questions 

Having engaged with the resources above, reflect on these questions to develop your knowledge about students with EAL and how to support them in your school setting.

  • In what ways has this learning resonated with your existing knowledge about students with additional needs or perhaps shifted your thinking? 
  • Where are your students in their current language acquisition journey? Do they need further assessment to identify specific needs?
  • How are you currently supporting students with EAL in your classroom?
  • What are some of the challenges when supporting students with EAL in your context? Are there any strategies from the learning that could help you overcome these?
  • Do your students have any other additional needs? How could you work with your classroom teacher/SENDCo to meet these needs?
  • Are there any whole-school approaches in place to support students with EAL in your context? How effective are these at supporting these students?
  • How does your school communicate with parents of students with EAL? Are there any strategies from the learning that could improve this approach?
  • What areas would you like to prioritise learning more about?

 

We invite you to further your learning journey by engaging with the reading list and video content below. The reading list provides a wealth of articles, reports, guidance and resources to further support your professional learning. The video content includes webinars and video interviews with leading experts in the field, providing further insight into best practice when supporting children and young people with EAL.

Decorative image of glasses on an open notebook
Supporting students with English as an Additional Language (EAL): Selected reading
Supporting the linguistic and socio-emotional development of refugee and asylum-seeking children in UK schools – #EAL
The impact of school closure on pupils with EAL
Webinar: Supporting young multilingual pupils in early years settings
Webinar: The home learning environment – multilingualism and child-wellbeing
Webinar: Effective teaching for EAL learners
Webinar: The importance of heritage languages for student wellbeing and learning