Teachers urged to let EAL pupils learn in own language

EAL pupils are falling behind in lockdown because they lack opportunities to practise their English, charity warns
28th January 2021, 12:37pm

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Teachers urged to let EAL pupils learn in own language

https://www.tes.com/magazine/archived/teachers-urged-let-eal-pupils-learn-own-language
Coronavirus School Closures: Let Eal Pupils Learn In Their Own Language To Stop Them Falling Behind, Says Charity

Teachers are being encouraged to allow English as an additional language (EAL) pupils to study the school curriculum in their own language when undertaking remote learning in lockdown - as a way of helping them to avoid falling behind.

The measure is being suggested by the Bell Foundation charity, which says EAL pupils are among groups likely to suffer the most learning loss during lockdown - and that some are struggling to access remote learning altogether due to the language barrier. 

Other measures it says could help teachers engage EAL pupils include engaging their parents and using extra audio or video messages, as well as visual support when setting work.


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A Bell Foundation spokesperson said: "Learners face a double job - learning English at the same time as learning the subject in English…the outcome of the language learning loss, therefore, will impact on their attainment.

Coronavirus: The impact on EAL pupils' learning 

"Imagine how hard it would be if, without the opportunity to practise reading, hearing, speaking or writing another language for a period of months, the geography homework set must be submitted using all of the appropriate subject terminology but written in a language other than English."

The charity, which "aims is to overcome exclusion through language education", says pupils face barriers in remote learning particularly if they are new to English or have low levels of English language proficiency. It says evidence from teachers shows that some pupils are in danger of falling further behind their English peers because they are lacking confidence to speak while others have lost interest in learning,

While the charity says there is no specific research on the impact of school closures on EAL learners as yet, it draws on evidence from sources such as Ofsted and Department for Education-commissioned research that shows the learning gap between EAL pupils and their peers has widened under lockdown.

It also refers to analysis of national statistics that shows that EAL pupils are more likely to fall into the lowest socioeconomic group - 24.3 per cent are entitled to free school meals compared with 16.7 per cent of English-as-a-first-language pupils - meaning their learning may be impacted by more than one factor.

Bell Foundation director Diana Sutton has now provided seven tips for teachers on how they can help their EAL learners. These include: 

  • Consider how to involve, and communicate with, parents as they may lack the English language skills, confidence or understanding of the education system to support their child's learning.  
  • Highlight the value of bilingualism, multilingualism and home language maintenance. To support this, let parents know that pupils can still learn the curriculum content in their first language, and that the school encourages this. EAL parents and carers are likely to have fluency in their first language or languages, with which to support their child's learning. For example, parents can read at home in the first language and use their first language to help their children with home learning. 
  • Provide parents with key information about curriculum topics and up-to-date teaching approaches.
  • Provide translations, if possible, by using a member of staff who shares the same language, or an interpreter to help translate key messages both verbally and in written form.
  • Use extra audio or video messages as well as written information to ensure that those families who are new to English do not miss out on key messages.
  • Approximately 1.6 million pupils do not currently have digital access so it is important to check if learners are able to access the learning materials, equipment and technology they need to participate actively in home learning.
  • Create talk-based activities where possible, and use visual and concrete support when setting work. Use picture books at different proficiency levels to enable learners to respond and engage at their current level and to give them opportunities to develop their higher-order thinking skills by thinking about interpretations of pictures and the story

The Bell Foundation website includes guidance documents, blogs, webinar recordings and short guidance videos for teachers. There is also a section on parental involvement with flyers available in the 18 most commonly used first languages in UK schools, which teachers can print and share with parents.

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