English as an Additional Language (EAL) refers to pupils who speak another language at home and that this other language is their most prominent language, in other words their mother tongue is not English. Children with EAL should not be confused with children who are bi-lingual or children who grew up or spent time in another country but still had English as a first language.
The educational system in the United Kingdom has always had to cope with the difficulties and challenges that arise in the teaching of children to whom English is not their first language. I will be attempting to analyse the methods that are used in schools to ensure that children who speak another language at home are given every opportunity to fully engage with the curriculum and acquire a well rounded and successful education.
Never has the UK been more multi-cultural than it is at the present time, while I believe that this should be celebrated it does provide tests for teachers who may have children in the class who speak little or no English, and at the same time have to ensure that all the pupils in the class are being stretched. The ‘Department for Children, Schools and Families’ Standards website (Raising Achievement) has some facts and figures in relation to children with EAL which I found interesting.
The article points out the following: ‘In England, 856,670 pupils are recorded as having a mother tongue other than English. This represents a total of 492,390 pupils or 15.2% at primary school nationally and 364,280 pupils or 11.1% at secondary school (Statistical First Release August 2009). Whilst in Inner London around 54.1% of pupils are recorded as learning English as an additional language.’
I think that the above quote highlights how important addressing the issue of children with EAL in schools is in this country. The figures which show that there is a higher percentage of children with EAL in primary school than in secondary education would indicate that the percentage will be increasing further in the future.
Being based in the London area and having School Experience placements in areas of great diversity has given me an excellent insight into the challenges faced by pupils, parents, teachers and schools and I hope to use this knowledge to identify the methods which will best encourage inclusion of all children within the classroom. Inclusion
Inclusion in schools is something which has really come to the fore in recent years and as a concept it aims to ensure that all learners are catered for and that they are all challenged appropriately and encouraged to progress as effectively as possible. The Qualifications and Curriculum Development Agency (QCDA) describe their goal in light of inclusion by stating that ‘effective, inclusive teaching addresses the needs of all learners’.
The National Curriculum points out the diverse needs that teachers need to consider: ‘When planning, teachers should set high expectations and provide opportunities for all pupils to achieve, including boys and girls, pupils with special educational needs, pupils from all social and cultural backgrounds, pupils from different ethnic groups including travellers, refugees and asylum seekers, and those from diverse linguistic backgrounds. Teachers need to be aware that pupils bring to school different experiences, interests and strengths which will influence the way in which they learn.’
The National Curriculum here highlights a selection of the large number of different groups of children that can benefit from teaching in an inclusive manner. The National Curriculum also points out a number of things that teachers can do to implement this style of teaching in the classroom including ‘creating effective learning environments’, ‘providing equality of opportunity through teaching approaches’, and ‘using appropriate assessment approaches’ and ‘setting targets for learning’.
What is important to recognise is that the whole idea of ‘Inclusion’ is much broader and reaches a lot further than the school system. For it to truly work the ideas and actions need to be implemented much more widely in society as a whole. In recent years there have been a number of high profile instances such as the ‘Baby P’ case in which government authorities have failed to protect children who are vulnerable despite there being enough evidence to suggest that they may be in danger.
The lack of appropriate communication between these different branches and their subsequent failures to protect youngsters at risk has understandably caused public uproar and has put pressure on the government to reassess and review how cases of neglect or abuse should be handled in the future.
Every Child Matters (2003) is an initiative which was launched in 2003, and was partly down to another tragic case, that of Victoria Climbié who was abused and murdered by her legal guardians in 2000. This preventable death of an 8 year old girl and the public outrage that followed led to the government coming up with the scheme in which they vowed to see to it that every child regardless of racial or social background or whatever their circumstances should be entitled to the following five rights: •be healthy
•enjoy and achieve
•make a positive contribution
•achieve economic well-being.
It was deemed that these basic rights should be had by all children in the UK and that all organisations that provide services to children such as schools, hospitals and police will interact in new ways and share information more readily in order to try and identify and stop other awful cases of maltreatment of children. As well as organisations communicating more effectively it is vitally important that parents and guardians as well as people who work within these organisations to interact with one another.
If people understand what rights they or their children are entitled to and what expectations they have of one another then that can only have a positive impact on the progress of the children concerned. The factors and qualities that make a school inclusive are very much open to debate, as are the steps that can be taken by teachers or by the schools themselves to make certain that the school is operating inclusively and is something that will be discussed in more detail later in this essay.
One factor that will affect how inclusive a school is would be the experience they have in dealing with pupils who have different needs. For instance if a teacher has had lots of experience working with children with EAL and this teacher has over half of the current class with EAL the surely they would be fairly well prepared to take in a child who has just moved to the country and speaks very little English when compared with an inexperienced teacher who has never encountered a similar situation before. It is a mix of practice and willingness that will give teachers the opportunities to learn which techniques work best for them.
In 2008 Sir Jim Rose was asked by the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families to undertake an Independent Review of the Primary Curriculum which resulted in the final report (Rose 2009) which has had a big impact on how primary education is being approached. In his section titled ‘Understanding English, communication and languages’ Rose stated that: ‘Learning in this area should include an appropriate balance of focused subject teaching and well-planned opportunities to use, apply and develop knowledge and skills across the whole curriculum’.
The importance of language and communication being highlighted in such a prominent review of the whole of the primary education system can only be supportive to the wider issue of inclusion. Comparing different schools and assessing how well they incorporate inclusion into their teaching is something which would be very difficult to do.
The fact that every child is so different in terms of needs and ability and that such a large number of exterior factors affect how a child performs in school mean that possibly the only real comparisons between different schools that would be worthwhile doing would be schools that have a similar intake of pupils in terms of ethnic, religious and socio-economic backgrounds. But even if such comparisons were carried out, what would be the definition of success in terms of what the pupils output is? The ‘Hidden curriculum’ is a phrased coined by Philip Jackson (1968) which covers everything not on the official curriculum that is learnt in school.
This could be anything from basic social customs and manners, to the learning about authority systems which will stay with you into adulthood. It is important to remember that a child who has moved from a culture completely different from that of this country, or even a child who at home experiences completely different expectations and behaviours will be learning all of these customs that we consider ‘normal’ at the same time as they are learning the English language. English as an Additional Language (EAL)
English as an Additional Language (EAL) is a generic term and as such there is no clear definition as what qualifies someone as having EAL. Children come from all sorts of family backgrounds as well as educational backgrounds and as a result putting them into certain categories could be misleading or even incorrect, however, in general when someone is referred to as having EAL and when it is referred to in this essay it is taken to mean someone whose first, or most proficient language is something other than English.
It is very important to recognise the fact that EAL is not the same as SEN, and children who have EAL should not be treated in the same way as children who have SEN. Unfortunately it is often the case that children who have EAL are grouped together with pupils who have Special Educational Needs, and as well as being a rather ignorant approach from the teacher, it could be demoralising and to the detriment of the child’s learning. Work may have to be differentiated for the pupils in question in the same manner that special work may have to be given to children with SEN, however, if a teacher is truly taking into account the needs of all the children in the class then they should be aware of the fact that each and every child will require different types of work and different types of teaching to best achieve their potential.
Such is the importance of being inclusive to children with EAL nowadays and the high profile of this in a wider context that teacher training makes future teachers aware of the importance of being able to work with children who have EAL. The QTS Standards which all potential teachers must meet before being qualified include a number which refer explicitly to EAL. One of these standards Q18, states that all teachers must understand that ‘learners are affected by a range of developmental, social, religious, ethnic, cultural and linguistic influences’. Another Q19 emphasises the importance that teachers:
‘Know how to make effective personalised provision for those they teach, including those for whom English is an additional language or who have special educational needs or disabilities, and how to take practical account of diversity and promote equality and inclusion in their teaching.’ (QTS Standard Q19)
Many of the other QTS Standards can be related back to the teaching of children with EAL and the above examples go to show that those in authority are aware of the importance of teachers, or future teachers being capable in this respect.
There is an interesting article by Alison Shilela named ‘Dialogue with Difference: teaching for equality in primary schools’ which looks at equality in the classroom. In the article Shilela endeavours to discover which approaches will work best to ensure that every individual gets the opportunity to achieve academically and develop into conscientious and accountable people who can reach their full potential.
In her report Shilela looks at the Ofsted report Raising the Attainment of Minority Ethnic Pupils: School and LEA Responses (1999). In this it is reported that “African-Caribbean boys, Pakistani, Bangladeshi and traveller pupils are not achieving the same success of their peers”. She reflects upon this in light of another study that shows that no one group of learners is any less able than any other.
This would imply certain ethnic and social groups are being let down by the education system in the UK, and that pupils of different races are less successful due to cultural reasons or to the teaching methods they are being exposed to. The article looks at a number of different examples are culture affecting how children learn and does so with inquisitive insight however, the lasting impression of the piece and certainly it’s most prominent point is that ‘Equality in education no longer means treating everyone the same way.’ This is in many ways a simple idea, but one which is relevant and applicable to education in Britain today.