English as an Additional Language (EAL)

Naomi Flynn, Chris Pim and Sarah Coles| View as single page| Comment/Feedback
Teaching and Learning for pupils with English as an additional language
Identifying the teaching context for EAL learners
Developing language and literacy for EAL learners
Resourcing the teaching of EAL learners

How to use this MESH guide for EAL

This guide has been co-authored by Naomi Flynn, Professor of Multilingual Education at the University of Reading Institute of Education, working with Chris Pim (EAL expert author) and Sarah Coles, Director of Hampshire’s Ethnic Minority and Traveller Achievement Service (EMTAS). It was constructed with the support of teachers in primary and secondary schools in Hampshire, selected for their existing expertise in teaching EAL learners, who used the guidance for action research during the spring and summer of 2015. It was revised in 2019 and again in 2023.  You can contact us through n.flynn@reading.ac.uk

We use the term EAL (English as an additional language) because this is in current use in education in the UK, but readers can assume that this refers to any child speaking heritage languages other than English in the home. This might be a new arrival with no spoken English or a child fully proficient in English but using other languages outside school. We prefer the term ‘multilingual’ to describe these learners because this foregrounds and celebrates their multilingualism as an asset, rather than identifying them only by their proficiency in English. You will find the terms multilingual and EAL used interchangeably in the guide.  

The guide is written principally to support teachers and learning support assistants working with multilingual learners in any educational setting who are at any stage of proficiency in the learning of English. It will also support senior leaders in their strategic response to multilingual learners in their schools. As with all MESH guides, it seeks to share knowledge with professionals in order to support the growth of evidence-informed practice that works in promoting the best in pupil outcomes.  

This guide chiefly supports the teaching and learning of multilingual learners in terms of their language and literacy development, because these skills allow them access to learning across the curriculum. There is deliberate and considerable overlap between the sections of the guide in acknowledgement of the interdependence of language and literacy development. Thus readers will find it helpful to read sections other than those that appear at first to match their interest. In particular it is important that the sections on the left-hand side of the guide which present the theoretical foundations of new language learning, and the stages of pupils’ proficiency, are understood to underpin the practical suggestions presented in other sections.  

The guide is of use to practitioners in primary (5 -11 years) and secondary schools (11 – 16 years). These English terms are used throughout but readers from other countries can assume an approximate match with school ages elsewhere. However, it is useful to note that in England the statutory age for pupils to start in full time education is 5 years, and thus there will be some age-related differences in expectation for language use and written outcomes in other countries. More useful for all readers is to consider pupils’ stage of English proficiency when reading the guide and to note where we make age-appropriate adaptations. The design of the guide was driven by the wishes expressed by teachers taking part in its construction. We welcome feedback on how well the guide works for busy teachers seeking evidence-informed practical ideas to support development of their teaching for multilingual learners.  


Original guide sponsored by the University of Winchester, this revision sponsored by The University of Reading and Hampshire EMTAS.