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English as an Additional Language

English as an Additional Language (EAL) support is a core responsibility for every school.

Use the tabs below to learn more about good practice, the role of the EAL Co-ordinator, working together with families, SENCo’s, and more.

School Leadership and management should consider:

  • Is there a named governor who leads on EAL?
  • How does the governing body support and challenge the school with regard to its EAL provision?
  • Is there a named member of the senior leadership team with overall responsibility/accountability for EAL provision in the school (EAL co-ordinator)?
  • Does the school have an EAL strategy or action plan in place?

In England, there is no specific EAL curriculum, instead the Department for Education (DfE) expect that effective teaching and learning for learners using EAL happens through the National Curriculum:

               4.5 Teachers must also take account of the needs of pupils whose first language is not         English. Monitoring of progress should take account of the pupil’s age, length of time in this country, previous educational experience and ability in other languages.

               4.6 The ability of pupils for whom English is an Additional Language to take part in the         national curriculum may be in advance of their communication skills in English. Teachers should plan teaching opportunities to help pupils develop their English and should aim to provide the support pupils need to take part in all subjects.

(Statutory Guidance, National curriculum in England: Framework for key stages 1 to 4, Updated 2 December 2014).

The Teachers’ Standards (2012) state that it is the responsibility of all teachers, whatever their subject, to “adapt their teaching to the strengths and needs of all pupils”.

Learners who use EAL are mentioned specifically in Section 5: ‘Adapt teaching to respond to the strengths and needs of all pupils’, but there is relevance to teaching and learning for EAL learners throughout the standards.

Standard 5 states that teachers should, “have a clear understanding of the needs of all pupils, including those with special educational needs; those of high ability; those with English as an Additional Language; those with disabilities; and be able to use and evaluate distinctive teaching approaches to engage and support them.”

The following policies are key to good practice:

  • A Languages Policy: Can be used to make an important statement about the kind of school you aspire to be – welcoming, inclusive, supportive, multilingual, diverse, or indeed all of the above. By actively involving staff and pupils in the design of the policy and by implementing it from classroom to canteen, key messages will start to resonate around the school and to have a meaningful impact on teaching and learning. Guidance on developing a languages or EAL policy is available on the EAL Nexus website.
  • New Arrivals Induction and Assessment Policy: Useful in clarifying staff roles and responsibilities for welcoming and carrying out initial assessments of new EAL pupils admitted to school mid-term. Further guidance on how to assess English language proficiency can be found via The Bell Foundation’s EAL Assessment Framework Guidance on welcoming new arrivals is available from Bracknell Forest Council’s “EAL and Diversity Website”.

EAL Key Priorities should include:

  • Assessing proficiency in English language and developing tailored support when a pupil first arrives in school to enable them to access and achieve through the curriculum.
  • Recording progress in proficiency in English of all EAL pupils and using this data to identify need and target appropriate support.
  • EAL training for all school staff.
  • The consistent use of an EAL Assessment Framework and associated support strategies.
  • Ensuring all staff are aware of the important association between bilingualism and achievement and are equipped to provide the necessary support for all learners.

The Bell Foundation’s award-winning EAL Assessment Framework for Schools and digital EAL Assessment Tracker are available free of charge to all schools in the UK.
EAL Assessment Framework – The Bell Foundation (

Language cannot be separated from identity; it is important that the first language of every child is acknowledged and valued in schools. Strong leadership which motivates primary school staff to value multilingualism as a celebrated asset in school can have a positive impact on relationships with children and families. It is important that this positive multilingual ethos is captured in an EAL or languages policy. This may include:

  • Providing inductions for new staff around whole-school policies, systems and strategies aimed at supporting EAL learners within diverse multilingual classrooms.
  • Actively involving staff and pupils in the design of an EAL policy and communicating its importance to all.
  • Providing examples of practical resources to use in class which value multilingualism – for example, see Newbury Park’s “Language of the Month” .
  • Developing multilingual strategies for learning (e.g. bilingual home-school vocabulary books).
  • Engaging the parents and carers of EAL learners in school life, e.g. producing multilingual displays together or projects such as the “Carry my Story Project”.

The EAL C-Ordinator works with the leadership team to monitor provision for all children and young people for whom English is an additional language. Actions should include:

  • Work with the leadership team to produce an action plan based on identified needs to develop school provision for pupils learning EAL
  • Ensure that information about the first language spoken by pupils is accurate
  • Analyse end of key stage data in order to know about trends in the standards and progress of children from different ethnic groups and those learning English as an additional language
  • Work with the leadership team to ensure ambitious attainment targets are set for bilingual learners
  • Monitor the progress and attainment of EAL learners
  • Advise on specific provision for underachieving children learning English as an additional language –  the organisation and design of interventions etc.
  • Work with the leadership team to evaluate the impact of specific provision
  • Work with the leadership team to monitor attendance, exclusions, rewards and parental involvement by ethnic background
  • Keep up to date with current developments in EAL pedagogy and practice
  • Work with the leadership team to organise continuing professional development for all staff relevant to the needs of children learning EAL in order to ensure that whole school responsibility is taken for supporting the needs of pupils learning EAL

The EAL Co-Ordinator leads on meeting the needs of pupils newly arrived from overseas Actions should include:

  • liaising with parents and carers to develop profiles which inform the development of strategies to meet children’s’ social, emotional, language and learning needs;
  • using a range of assessment data to inform planning; (and inform teachers of assessment results/ provide guidance)
  • planning and organising an induction programme,   including where necessary an early stage English as an additional language programme;
  • organising appropriate support advising colleagues on ways to include children in the mainstream curriculum
  • Work with senior and middle leaders to ensure that the needs of EAL pupils are taken into account in decision making relating to school systems, policies  etc.    

EAL Co-Ordinators offer support for EAL learning and teaching: Actions should include:

  • Work with other curriculum coordinators to use a range of quantitative and qualitative data to identify specific aspects of language development which require focused work
  • Plan and teach with colleagues in order to develop expertise in meeting the language and learning needs of bilingual children including developing colleagues’ knowledge and ability to:
  • identify language demands and language development opportunities in planning;
  • ensure learning builds on children’s previous experience;
  • use bilingual strategies;
  • use a range of strategies for scaffolding language and learning;
  • provide opportunities for speaking and listening for a range of purposes and audiences across the curriculum;
  • using a range of day-to-day assessment strategies to assess progress and identify next steps for EAL learners.         
  • Support adaptation of national intervention programmes as appropriate to meet the needs of bilingual learners
  • Model and promote values, attitudes and behaviour supportive of race equality

EAL Co-Ordinators support curriculum development. Actions should include:

  • Support the design and delivery of a culturally inclusive curriculum and the development of a whole school ethos and environment which reflects the ethnic, linguistic, cultural and religious diversity of the school and promotes a sense of belonging by working alongside other coordinators to ensure:
    • choices are made from the Programmes of Study which reflect and value the diversity of the school
    • schemes of work and medium and short term plans reflect the diversity of the school and local communities
    • opportunities are found across the curriculum to emphasise the achievements of people from diverse backgrounds, teach about global  issues, human rights, bias, prejudice, racism and stereotyping  
  • Work with colleagues to develop appropriate resources for the above for use across the curriculum
  • Advise on the purchase of materials for use across the curriculum and in displays
  • Support colleagues to develop their knowledge of the linguistic, cultural and religious backgrounds of children and their families and the social and political factors which affect their live.

EAL Co-Ordinators have a partnership role with parents, carers and communities. Actions should include:

  • Advise the school on a range of ways to make sure parents from diverse cultural, linguistic and religious backgrounds feel welcome and respected
  • Ensure the needs of parents for translation and interpretation are met
  • Devise and enact strategies to ensure parents understand the school’s approach to learning and teaching and can participate as key partners
  • Provide children with learning activities and ideas, including use of e-mail and the internet, when they go on ‘extended visits’ to heritage countries, and working with subject coordinators to make sure their experiences are incorporated into the curriculum on their return
  • Support the development of links with supplementary and community schools
  • Ensure that parents from minority communities know that the first language has a significant and continuing role in their child’s learning, that the school values bilingualism and considers it to be an advantage

Speaking English as an Additional Language (EAL) is not a Special Educational Need (SEN), but learners with EAL may themselves have additional educational needs, just like learners who use English as their First Language.

Is it English as an Additional Language, a language disorder, or both? – YouTube

Making slower than expected progress is not necessarily an indicator of additional educational needs. Research has shown that many factors impact on the progress and academic achievement of learners using EAL.

Factors affecting a learner’s progress:

  • Age of the pupil on arrival to the UK; those arriving later in their academic career have a wider gap to close
  • Previous experience of education; those who have had an interrupted education may have gaps in their knowledge. This is not the same as an additional need.
  • First language; where the writing system is different for example, learners are faced with a temporary barrier to their learning, but it is one which can be quickly addressed with quality teaching
  • Proficiency in first language; a learner’s literacy skills in their first language will support their acquisition of an additional language. A learner who has not learnt to read or write in their first language, perhaps because they did not attend school, is likely to find learning English, and therefore, learning in English particularly demanding.

Universal Assessments

Identifying additional needs is vital so that the appropriate support strategies can be put in place. Learners may not have acquired sufficient English to demonstrate their true cognitive abilities. Persistently low scores in non-verbal tests might, however, suggest an additional need.

Assessment in First Language

Paramount in this is the need to ensure that the assessment is not a stressful experience for the learner.

Where students are working at New to English or Early Acquisition and are believed to be literate in their first language, conducting an assessment using a pupil’s first language will provide a more reliable indicator of potential learning needs. Ideally, the assessment will be task-based and conducted by a fluent speaker of the language, and will assess all four domains of language knowledge and use (listening, speaking, reading and viewing, and writing), as well as gain some insight into the understanding of age-related concepts.

Where there is no one available to conduct a thorough assessment in the first language, it may be possible to use translation apps and e-books to gain some insight into, for example, fluency of reading, ability to respond to a text or other stimuli, in both spoken and written forms.

Where a learner’s literacy in their first language is assessed to be at least age-related, any difficulties in learning English are less likely to be due to additional needs.

SEND Filter questions published by Portsmouth EMAS are very useful in beginning to explore SEN. This document is intended to provide a comprehensive ‘filter’ for concerns that may be raised regarding a range of features of SEND in relation to students with EAL. It highlights UNIVERSAL and TARGETED provision strategies and approaches followed by possible staff development in the form of training opportunities. These strategies and interventions support improved progress and attainment of all learners, including those who have EAL

Area of Concerns  explored are:

  • Lack of Response (verbal or non-verbal)
  • Problems with Listening & Understanding
  • Lack of oral expression over a range of skills
  • Difficulty in progressing in areas of the curriculum other than English
  • Slow or little progress with reading
  • Difficulties with writing
  • Behavioural, Emotional or Social Difficulties

Parents/carers can often provide an overview of previous educational performance. Things to ask include:

  • Do you have any reports from the last school they attended?
  • Do you have any health records you can share?
  • How long/often did your child attend school before arriving in UK?
  • What progress do you think your child is making when using their home language?
  • Do you have any concerns about your child’s progress?

In England, the SEND Code of Practice (2014) puts children and families at the centre of any assessment of need or provision planning.

For EAL learners, this may require schools to offer additional support for parents such as the use of interpreters, in-depth first language assessment and sensitive handling of meetings with external agencies, for example, educational psychologists. For some cultures, a diagnosis of additional needs may raise fears about mental health and concerns about stigmatisation.

EAL learners who are identified as having a specific learning need will require the same support as their First Language English peers, as well as language support. Teaching will need to address the SEND and the EAL needs of the learners.

For example, a visually impaired new arrival who has never learned to read, will need to be taught how to read and write using braille, and then will need resources brailling.