Case studies

In designing this MESHGuide for EAL the authors drew on the thinking and feedback of teachers and learning support assistants (LSAs) in schools where numbers of EAL pupils were relatively low but where practice for EAL was recognised as well-informed by Hampshire EMTAS. The process of design involved the teachers in trialling aspects of the guide as part of the their active practice with their EAL learners; the resulting action research projects form the case studies in this section.


Using first language to support pupils' learning and social well-being

It is important that schools find ways to proactively acknowledge and celebrate the languages spoken by pupils and staff alike; this helps to create an ethos whereby multilingualism is valued and pupils/parents feel more included. This will enhance a sense of school belonging and opportunities for greater cross-cultural understanding.  In keeping with this, the print environment, including the stock of books in the library, should reflect the linguistic diversity of the school community.


The learning environment

‘The physical environment plays an important role in how valued children from diverse backgrounds feel in school. Children are more likely to feel valued and develop a sense of belonging when their ethnic, cultural, religious and linguistic background is reflected positively in the displays in their classroom and around the school.’  DfES (2006) 

Ideas for making the school and classroom environment more inclusive:


Personalising provision and increasing independence

Practitioners may notice that pupils for whom English is an additional language may continue to make grammatical errors in their written English long after they have achieved conversational fluency in English. 


Planning activities related to language learning needs

In planning for multilingual learners it is important to pre-identify the language demands of any task you are setting in relation to a given learning objective. This is the same for children at any level of English proficiency and might relate to specific vocabulary, to particular concepts or to unfamiliar expression (idiomatic or technical phrases). The difficulties might relate to the need to understand spoken or written language and to the need to use spoken or written language.


Writing for new to English learners

In conjunction with this section, you will find it helpful to read the sections on both Spoken English development and Reading because the development of each of these areas is crucial to successful writing in English for EAL learners. 


Who are our EAL learners?

The numbers of multilingual learners and the range of languages spoken in UK schools have risen substantially in the past 15 – 20 years. In England, in 2023, 22% of primary and 18% of secondary pupils have EAL, meaning that at least one in five pupils is multilingual. However, their language learning backgrounds are by no means the same; in fact this group is extremely heterogeneous.   


Theories of additional language learning

It is generally accepted among researchers that a first language is ‘developed’ while a second or subsequent language is ‘acquired’. This would be different for children who are raised by parents with two languages and who develop full bilingualism in two languages from birth. However, for most practitioners using this guide we assume that the pupils with whom they are working are acquiring English, or other target language, while at school. There are a number of different theories related to second language acquisition, and we acknowledge that there is some disagreement in this field.


References to the research used in this guide

Adesope, O., Lavin, T., Thompson, T., & Ungerleider, C. (2010). A Systematic Review and MetaAnalysis of the Cognitive Correlates of Bilingualism. Review of Educational Research, 80(2), 207 - 245

August, D., & Shanahan, T. (2006) Developing literacy in second-language learners: Report of the National Literacy Panel on language-minority children and youth, Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum

Baker, C (2011) Foundations of Bilingual Education and Bilingualism, Clevedon: Multilingual Matters Birmingham


EAL supporting hardware and digital tools

Accessible technology to support bilingualism, speaking listening, reading/viewing and writing 

Harnessing the power of technology. Technology Enhanced Learning, Pim, C. NALDIC Journal. Spring 2020. 

Mobile devices 



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