Mixed early progress highlights need for sustained support for pupils with English as an additional language

  School classroom  Credit: Taylor Wilcox/Unsplash

Newly-arrived pupils who speak English as an additional language (EAL) often make ‘mixed’ linguistic and academic progress during their first years in British schools, which need a proper framework to give them sustained support, a study suggests.

The finding is one of numerous results and recommendations in a new book about the language development of EAL pupils, and its impact on their attainment and social integration. The book, authored by a team of academics from Cambridge, Anglia Ruskin and Durham Universities, examines the complex relationship between language, education and the social integration of newcomer migrant EAL students.

According to the School Census, there are currently over 1.5 million EAL pupils in England, and the proportion is steadily rising. The trend is similar in many other English-speaking countries.

The book builds on three years of research involving over 40 schools across the East of England, funded by the Bell Foundation, and highlights much good practice by teachers working in multilingual classrooms. But it also points to inconsistencies and gaps in support for EAL pupils, stemming from an absence of national guidelines, targeted assessment, and systemic problems in areas such as teacher training and school-parent communication.

EAL pupils themselves were found to make uneven progress during their first two years in English schools. While many became competent English-speakers, their written English frequently lagged behind. The authors suggest this pattern may be further exacerbated by reductions in funding for EAL support.

As well as analysing the progress of EAL pupils, the study proposes a model for a more inclusive approach to teaching EAL students.

Dr Karen Forbes, Lecturer at the Faculty of Education, University of Cambridge, said: “At the moment, it is often left to individual teachers or schools to decide how to handle the challenges of a multilingual classroom. While many do excellent work, EAL pupils inevitably have a variable experience. Teachers and schools should be able to draw on a structured framework and a proper knowledge base so that they can give these pupils the sustained linguistic and educational support they often need.”

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Reproduced courtesy of the University of Cambridge



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