How can e-learning help to support EAL reading and language skills in UK schools?
The background for EAL within the UK
Official figures from the Department for Education in 2014 showed that over 1 million pupils in the UK speak English as an additional language (EAL), and this figure has grown in subsequent years. Such pupils now form a majority in one in nine schools in England; the number has risen by 20% during the last five years.
How do schools currently manage the needs of EAL students?
As outlined by The Guardian’s Nick Morrison, there are a variety of different approaches taken by schools to integrate EAL students into the classroom.
Intervention or intensive English classes: Some schools opt to place children into intervention classes where there is a focus on practical, everyday English. This allows students to gain a basic grasp of English before entering mainstream classes. This generally lasts half of the first term (around six weeks), and children are still encouraged to take part in standard PE, maths and art classes.
Buddy systems: Other schools use a buddy system, pairing EAL pupils with two buddies; one that speaks their home language, and another who is a fluent English speaker. This provides a balance between making children feel welcome, and also helping them transition out of their linguistic comfort zone.
Learning by example: Schools have also placed pupils in the middle and top sets with a buddy who doesn’t necessarily speak the same home language. This aims to encourage learning by immersion with the “good language” skills of their peers.
Rewriting schemes of work: Some teachers rewrite schemes of work to accommodate lower levels of English ability, but staying faithful to curriculum content and academic rigour. This usually involves more of a visual focus with delivery of vocabulary to support EAL students.
What is the best practice for schools?
Whilst there is much debate about what constitutes best practice for supporting the learning EAL students, common themes seem to emerge about what doesn’t work:
It is not about reducing the standard of learning to accommodate non-English speakers, as this reduces the level of challenge presented to students, and can also be to the detriment of English-speaking peers.
Likewise, complete isolation from English-speaking peers is not the answer as this takes away the opportunity for EAL students to learn by example, and deprives them of everyday social interaction that also forms a vital function within language learning.