A number of factors will have an impact on the development of pupils’ language skills and their ability to apply these skills to their learning across the curriculum:
- the age at which pupils enter the educational system;
- their previous experience of schooling and literacy in their first language;
- their knowledge, skills and understanding of languages and the school curriculum;
- home and community expectations and understanding of the education system;
- support structures for learning and language development at home and at school.
Pupils with English as an additional language are not a homogeneous group. At Houlton, we understand that there are a range of variables in relation to both individual pupils and groups. These variables will also be significant when interpreting the overall task which learning EAL entails:
- Some pupils are born in the UK but enter school speaking little or no English and have limited or no experience of literacy in their first language.
- Some pupils are born in the UK but enter school speaking little or no English. However, they have some experience of literacy in their first languages.
- Some pupils arrive between the ages of 11 and 18 without literacy or oracy skills in English but with age equivalent skills in literacy and oracy in their first languages, and sometimes in other languages as well.
- Some pupils enter the school system between the ages of 11 and 18 without literacy or oracy skills in English and with limited or no literacy skills in their first language due to disrupted schooling.
- In addition, some pupils have suffered emotional and psychological stress as a result of family loss or social and economic disruption to their lives in their countries of origin.
For pupils who are learning English as an additional language as well as learning through English, many aspects of their EAL development are different and more challenging than that faced by their English-speaking peers learning English as a National Curriculum subject. For instance, they will have to grapple with everyday vocabulary and pronunciation, something that their peers would have attained through experience at home and in school. Beyond that, there are the more demanding tasks of learning English grammar and social/academic rules of use which, if unassisted, can present formidable difficulties and can entail years of hit-and-miss efforts.
At Houlton, these students’ distinctive needs are regularly assessed and provision considered when it comes to assessments and preparation for formal examinations. EAL learners needs will be considered and they may be entitled to additional support when preparing for exams, particularly with examination technique, style and vocabulary. Some pupils may be entitled to access arrangements, such as a dictionary or extra time.
Our inclusion team base the principles of our work with pupils who have English as an Additional Language on best practice from NALDIC, the national subject association for EAL. This essential professional knowledge and understanding has most clearly been identified in The Distinctiveness of English as an Additional Language: a cross-curriculum discipline (South,1999). This is directly concerned with what teachers of pupils with EAL need to know in order to carry out effective classroom work and is the basis for Houlton School’s approach, which is available in full within the policy here.