Who are our EAL learners?

The numbers of EAL learners and the range of languages spoken in UK schools have risen substantially in the past 15 – 20 years. In 2018 statistics from the UK’s Department for Education indicated that approximately 21% of primary school pupils have EAL and around 17% of secondary school pupils. While many of these children may live in towns and cities commonly associated with multilingual classrooms, it is increasingly common that teachers in any area will need to plan for EAL learner needs.

EAL learners in one school will have very different languages and heritages from those in another school. This means that schools and teachers need to be sensitive to differences beyond language differences and avoid the assumption that being an EAL learner of itself is the only aspect of a child’s identity that needs attention. There are some key areas of pedagogy that will support all EAL learners, but the most useful starting point, as with all pupils, is to understand something of the particular language, home background and previous education of your individual EAL learners. The chart below identifies the wide variety of experiences your EAL learners may have.

The Background and Experience of EAL Learners (Source: Pim, C (2010) How to Support Children Learning English as an Additional Language, Hyde: LDA) 

Born in the UK ←---------------------------------------→ Completely new arrival in the UK
Family intends to stay in the UK permanently and has the legal right to do so ←---------------------------------------→ Status to remain in the UK is uncertain of time limited
Uninterrupted education from starting school to current time ← Experience may depend on school starting age in home country → No school or very interrupted and piecemeal education
Bilingual or multilingual; orally fluent and fully literate in one or more languages other than English ← Background experience lies across spectrum → No literacy in first or other languages
Orally fluent and fully literate in English ←---------------------------------------→ Very limited oracy and no literacy in Endlish
No specific learning difficulties ←---------------------------------------→ Evidence of some specific learning difficulties
Stable background - intact family and emotionally secure ←---------------------------------------→ Fragmented family background or unaccompanied minor; possible experience of trauma

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