Anyone in the world
In this blog, Hampshire EMTAS Specialist Teacher Advisor Jamie Earnshaw explores best practice provision in relation to the placement of learners with EAL in 'ability' groups, sets or streams in primary and secondary school settings.
Typically, any decisions on which group, set or stream to place
learners in are based on their perceived academic ability. If learners with EAL are placed in
groups, sets or streams merely according to their proficiency in English, or
what they can demonstrate in English, it might take some learners many years
before being able to access appropriately cognitively challenging tasks in the
upper groups, sets or streams, given the timescales involved in learners
reaching a similar level of English to their monolingual peers. For example, generally
speaking, younger learners who start to learn English in Key Stage 1 can take
between 7 and 10 years to acquire full cognitive academic language proficiency
(CALP) in their use of English across the curriculum. Older learners with
better developed language and literacy skills in their first languages may take
between 5 and 7 years to achieve CALP.
It is vital to
keep in mind that a learner’s proficiency in English is not necessarily representative
of their cognitive ability and of their understanding of subjects or topics if
demonstrated in their first language (L1). Schools should therefore make any
decisions to group, set or stream learners on a multitude of factors, not
solely based on a learner’s level of proficiency in English, keeping in mind
that a newly arrived learner of EAL is unlikely to have a sufficient level of
English to demonstrate their full knowledge or abilities.
assessing learners with EAL, and consequently when making any decisions
relating to the placement of learners in groups, sets or streams, schools
should collect a range of information, including their prior education and
skills in L1.
this principle in mind, standardised tests should be avoided for early stage
learners of EAL and results from such tests should not be used to inform the
placement of learners with EAL into groups, sets or streams.
Why should L1 help to inform decisions on the placement of learners with EAL?
Cummins (1984, 1996)[i]
highlights the interdependency of a pupil’s academic skills in L1 and a second
language – known as common underlying proficiency.
underlying proficiency allows some aspects of cognitive/academic or
literacy-related skills to transfer across languages, including: conceptual
knowledge, subject matter knowledge, higher-order thinking skills, reading
strategies and writing composition skills’[ii]
therefore be the case that a learner understands ideas or concepts in L1,
including those which are more abstract and complex, and is confidently able to
demonstrate this understanding in L1. However, when asked to demonstrate their
understanding in English, they might lack the necessary language of instruction
to fully understand the task they are being asked to complete, or, equally,
they might not have a sufficient command of English vocabulary or language
structures to be able to convey their understanding to school staff or peers,
who do not share the same language medium.
assessment of a learner with EAL will help to provide a more accurate
determination of a learner’s existing knowledge and skillset, rather than
merely what they are able to demonstrate through the medium of spoken or
The importance of appropriate placement of learners with EAL
highlights the fundamental fact that all learners achieve more when they view
the learning environment as positive and supportive[iii]
and therefore, any decisions on groups, sets and streams should look to
facilitate the appropriate level of cognitive demand for the individual
learner. This is pivotal in ensuring the positive learning journey of learners
with EAL and in supporting their progression to developing full CALP.
a key part of language learning is having access to a range of strong written
and verbal models of English, which is most likely to be found in higher
ability groups, sets or streams. This should be a fundamental consideration
when making decisions on the placement of learners with EAL.
The Bell Foundation research highlights how it ‘seems as though EAL learners are too often considered to be ‘learning disabled’ and/or classified as SEN[D] rather than simply being less proficient in English’.[iv]
distinction between EAL and SEND is explicitly stated in the Children and
Families Act 2014, section 20 (4):
child or young person does not have a learning difficulty or disability solely
because the language (or form of language) in which he or she is or will be
taught is different from a language (or form of language) which is or has been
spoken at home.’
learners with EAL are no more likely to have SEND than any other learner. Learners
with EAL should not therefore be automatically placed in lower sets with SEND
with EAL, like their monolingual peers, generally understand the principles
around placement of learners in groups, sets or streams and are therefore aware
that they are grouped with peers of a similar academic ability. By
inappropriately placing a learner with EAL with other learners who are of low
underlying cognitive ability or who have SEND, it is likely to be demeaning and
demotivating for them. Indeed, according to research from The Bell Foundation,
where learners were ‘not fully stretched because of insufficient staff
assessment and knowledge of their prior learning and attainment, their motivation
levels dropped and their behaviour in school could deteriorate’. i[v]
it is important that the activities and tasks offered to learners with EAL are
appropriate for their cognitive ability. Thus, for example, offering a reading
task to a pupil with EAL from a storybook that is well below their age may be
counter-productive because although the language demand may be lower, the
images and concepts may be inappropriate and serve to demean rather than help.
Tasks for learners with EAL should be cognitively challenging and language is
best acquired when there is a clear context within which the pupil is learning
the target language.
this in mind, back-yearing or deceleration, where learners are placed in a year
group below their chronological age, should, in the vast majority of cases, be
What if a learner with EAL does not have prior knowledge or understanding in a particular subject area?
principle that a pupil’s proficiency in English will increase more quickly
alongside accurate, fluent users of English, providing positive models for both
language and behaviour, is widely accepted.
to research from the DfE:
is … vital that pupils learning English have the opportunity to hear positive language
models, and so groupings need to be managed carefully to ensure that this
should therefore keep in mind, even where it is determined that a learner with
EAL lacks sufficient knowledge or skills more generally in a specific subject
area, their placement in a group, set or stream should facilitate their access
to positive language models. The placement of a learner with EAL in a mid to
higher ability group is more likely to provide the range of opportunities to
hear and see language being modelled appropriately - a vital part of language
Fundamentally, the proper and accurate assessment of learners with
EAL, to determine their academic proficiency beyond what they are able to
demonstrate in English, is vital. Furthermore, when placing learners with EAL
in groups, sets or streams, the need for access to appropriate models of
written and verbal English, which underlines language learning, should be at
the forefront of any such decisions.
1.) Place learners with EAL in groups, sets
or streams which facilitate access to a range of positive models of written and
verbal English. This is a fundamental principle of language learning.
2.) Use accurate and appropriate individual
assessment of learners’ academic and cognitive ability, including through L1,
to inform decisions on their placement in groups, sets or streams.
3.) As part of the assessment process,
collate as much information as possible about learners with EAL, including
proficiency in L1, prior educational experiences and pedagogical approaches
learners are familiar with.
4.) Involve learners and their
parents/carers in the decision-making process as much as possible. Seek the
views of learners and provide regular opportunities for review. Be prepared to
explain any decisions to parents/carers and provide opportunities for them to
ask any questions they might have.
5.) Avoid automatically placing learners
with EAL in groups, sets or streams purely because there are additional adults
available to support. This is only likely to be beneficial if staff have
received specific EAL-focused language learning training.
6.) Avoid relying on the results of
standardised tests to inform the placement of learners with EAL in groups, sets
7.) Ensure regular monitoring and tracking
of learners with EAL and provide regular opportunities for reviewing the
groups, sets or streams of learners with EAL.
8.) Promote the use of a learner’s L1 in
school to help with access to the curriculum. Training from EMTAS could help
staff to identify how learners with EAL could use L1 effectively in school
9.) Recognise the difference between the
needs of, and appropriate support for, a pupil with SEND, with that of an EAL learner
not backyear or decelerate learners with EAL as a matter of course. This will
only be appropriate in a limited number of cases and should only be done in
consultation with Hampshire EMTAS so that the full range of factors of any such
decision can be considered.
opportunities for learners with EAL to have access to peers who can model
language and skills in an appropriate way. This will also facilitate
opportunities for learners with EAL to practise using the target language in
meaningful contexts. Ensure that EAL learners’ peers are trained effectively to
support them in this way.
12.) Be wary of using KS2 SATs
outcomes for learners with EAL in order to determine sets, groups or streams at
KS3. Learners of EAL, particularly those who joined a UK school for the
first time during Key Stage 2, may have suppressed KS2 results due to not
having had enough time to fully ‘catch up’ with their monolingual peers. Any algorithm that generates end of KS4 predictions based on KS2 SATs results,
or any setting decisions based on those suppressed KS2 SATs outcomes, may lower
teacher expectations of what that learner may be able to achieve given a
further 5 years’ education in the UK system.
Contact email@example.com for further support and guidance. One
of our Specialist Teacher Advisors will be able to provide further advice for
[i] Cummins, J. (1984) Bilingualism
and Special Education: Issues in Assessment and Pedagogy. Clevedon:
Multilingual Matters. ISBN: 0-905028-13-9
J. (1996) Knowledge, Power, and Identity in Teaching English as a Second
Language. In Genesee, F. (Ed.) Educating Second Language Children: The
Whole Child, the Whole Curriculum, the Whole Community. Cambridge University
Press. ISBN: 0-521-45797-1
[ii] Rosamond, S. et
al.(2003) Distinguishing the Difference: SEN or EAL – an effective
step-by-step procedure for identifying the learning needs of EAL pupils causing
concern. Birmingham Advisory Support Service, Birmingham City Council
[iii] Dorman, J.P.,
Aldridge, J.M. & Fraser, B.J. (2006) Using Students' Assessment of
Classroom Environment to Develop a Typology of Secondary School Classrooms.
International Education Journal, 7(7), 906-915
[iv] The Bell Foundation
(2015) School Approaches to the Education of EAL Students: Language
Development, Social Integration and Achievement
[v] The Bell Foundation
(2015) School Approaches to the Education of EAL Students: Language
Development, Social Integration and Achievement
[vi] Department for
Education and Skills (2002) Access
and engagement in ICT: teaching pupils for whom English is an additional
Hampshire EMTAS Position Statement on the placement of learners with EAL in
groups, sets or streams on our Moodle here.
information on assessment of learners with EAL, see the section on assessment
in our Guidance Library here. Also, see our e-learning module on assessing L1 here.
Hampshire EMTAS guidance on Standardised testing and EAL learners.
further information on back-yearing/deceleration, please see the full Hampshire EMTAS guidance on deceleration
for learners of English as an Additional Language.
guidance on the distinction between EAL and SEND can be found on the Hampshire EMTAS
[ Modified: Tuesday, 11 January 2022, 9:52 AM ]
Anyone in the world
By the Hampshire EMTAS Specialist Teacher Advisors
This last year has been busier than ever for the EMTAS team.
Our Bilingual Assistants (BAs), led by our BA Manager Eva Papathanassiou, have been working tirelessly, remotely throughout the national lockdowns and then, when it became possible, in person, providing support to pupils, families and schools. Much time has been spent by our BAs supporting children and families with accessing online learning.
We have seen an increase in the number of referrals compared to last year and have been busy ensuring that all requests are responded to. The most popular languages referred to us this year have been Nepali, Polish, Romanian, Arabic, Turkish, Portuguese and Cantonese.
Our language phone lines have also been popular. The phone lines are available to support with sharing information with parents/carers, answering any questions they have and helping with home-school communication. Contact details and the list of languages can be found here.
Over with the Traveller team, new this year a series of termly GRT-focused network meetings were held online. These will continue to be online through 2021-22 in order to make them accessible to staff in schools across the county. Like our other network meetings, they are free to attend for Hampshire-maintained schools. To find out when the next ones are, check the Training section of the EMTAS website.
The EMTAS Admin team have continued to offer back-office support, maintaining records, sending out resources and dealing in impressively efficient ways with new referrals that have been flooding in from schools since the end of the last lockdown.
EAL/GRT Excellence Award
We are delighted that over 60 schools have started to work towards their EAL or GRT Excellence Awards this term.
Congratulations to the following schools who have successfully submitted or completed the validation process this year:
Petersfield Infant School
Validated at Gold
Merton Infant School
Validated at Gold
Whiteley Primary School
Validated at Bronze
John Keble C of E Primary and Ampfield C of E Primary Federation
Validated at Silver
Awaiting validation for Bronze
Validated at Bronze
Manor Field Infants
Validated at Silver
St John the Baptist C of E
Validated at Silver
Heritage Honours Award
The EMTAS Heritage Honours Award, launched this academic year, celebrates the achievements of children from BME, EAL and GRT backgrounds at school and within the home/community. Children and young people can be nominated for an award by the school they are currently attending.
More than 65 successful nominations have been made this year. Reasons for nomination variously include success in heritage language examinations, practical and creative use of first language within the school environment, sharing cultural background with peers, acting as an empathetic peer buddy, success in community sporting events and excellent progress in acquiring EAL.
Congratulations to all the children and families involved. Find out more here.
The team has been busy developing new pieces of E-learning this year which will be available from September 2021.
- Supporting children and families from Gypsy, Roma and Traveller (GRT) backgrounds
- Developing culturally inclusive practice in Early Years settings
- The appropriate placement of learners with EAL in groups, sets and streams
The e-learning modules can be accessed on our Moodle here.
Supporting English as an Additional Language (SEAL)
This is a course aimed at Teaching Assistants and it covers key aspects of practice and provision in relation to pupils for whom English is an Additional language. The full course comprises 6 modules which are delivered one a term over two years. There is a new SEAL course starting in October 2021.
For further details, please go to the Training section on the EMTAS website.
Thank you for all the positive feedback we have received about the remote support we have provided in the Guidance Library section of our Moodle. We will continue to add to this next year. Access our Guidance library here.
This year, we have published 20 blogs, written by a range of practitioners, including EMTAS Bilingual Assistants and Specialist Teachers, school-based staff and University students. We look forward to continuing to publish a fortnightly blog next year.
If you would like to contribute, please do get in touch with Astrid Dinneen firstname.lastname@example.org (who would like to say a massive thank you to Jamie Earnshaw for editing the blog so beautifully during her maternity leave).
EMTAS Resources Update
This year, we have been busy adding to our Resource Library. Below, we have listed some of the resources available to loan. You will also find a link to our online catalogue, so you can view all the resources we have available.
Each book has a series of props, made from key characters/events in the story, on lolly sticks (six of each prop), plus six copies of a key phrase that is used throughout the book. This resource can then be used with a group of children, who can enjoy telling the story in their own language, or share in English, using the props, or in many other ways. The resource can be lent out with one dual language version of the book.
Some of the stories we have include:
- Sports Day in the Jungle – Hungarian, Polish, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish
- The Hungry Caterpillar - Punjabi
- Brown Bear, Brown Bear, what do you see? – Arabic, Albanian, Bengali, Chinese, Portuguese, Somali, Turkish, Urdu, Shona, Hindi, Panjabi
- Farmer Duck – Bengali, Chinese, Malayalam, Turkish, Urdu, Bulgarian, Japanese, Panjabi, Romanian, Hindi, Nepali, Polish, Tagalog, German
- Monkey Puzzle – Brazilian Portuguese
EAL Story sacks
We have in stock a selection of EAL story sacks. They come in stories suitable for KS1. They have the story book, story props, and an audio CD of the story. Plus, they have a DVD with printable resources of activities for children with EAL.
Fiction for older readers
For the later primary and early secondary age (10 – 14 years), we do have many stories that can be enjoyed, in a variety of languages. We also have some of the very popular choices of fiction, such as Harry Potter and Tom Gates, in some languages.
We have a range of GCSE texts available to loan, such as A Christmas Carol, Animal Farm, Macbeth, and Romeo & Juliet, available in different languages including Polish, Portuguese, Bulgarian, Italian and Spanish. There are direct translations, thesaurus versions, graphic versions and GCSE notes.
We have a large range of exam dictionaries, which are word to word only and do not have a definition or what the word means.
New books for older readers with low reading ages
We now have a range of reading books available, primarily aimed at secondary school aged students who have low reading ages but many are also suitable for upper primary school aged pupils too. They have been written specifically with older readers in mind and so the content has been chosen to interest this age group, ensuring that the readers do not feel that the books are ‘babyish’ even though the text itself may be relatively simple.
The reading ages of the books range from approximately 5-6 years old to around 9-10 years old. They have been divided into nine groups so that books with similar reading ages can be easily identified. Books from a particular colour band for an individual student can be borrowed, matched to their reading level, then, as the student’s reading skills improve, a book from the next colour band up could be borrowed as their reading skills improve.
These books would be suitable for older new arrivals who need support to develop their reading skills in English and for whom reading books aimed at younger readers would not be suitable. They would also be appropriate for older students with EAL who also have SEND or for older pupils from Traveller backgrounds who are still developing their reading skills.
A word of warning about using these books with UASC and refugees – there are some titles within this group of books that are not suitable for use with UASC or refugees due to either the genre, content or illustrations. This is because these children and young people may have experienced trauma either in their country of origin or during their journey to the UK and some of the books may remind them of this.
EMTAS Library Catalogue
The EMTAS Library Catalogue can be found on our website here. Use the search box at the very top right-hand side of the screen to search for resources in a particular language. You can then email our Resources Manager, Julie Yates, who will arrange for the resources to be sent out via the courier.
Contact Julie Yates at email@example.com
At the end of this term, we will be bidding farewell to a number of colleagues.
Chris Pim, who retires at the end of the summer term, has been a member of the EMTAS Specialist Teacher Advisor team for many years. Schools in Fareham and Gosport will know him particularly well as he’s been their District teacher and has provided ad hoc advice and support as well as network meetings and other training opportunities. Until handing over to Lynne Chinnery in September 2020, Chris was also often to be found in schools in Havant and Waterlooville performing a similar role.
Chris’s particular interest has been in the use of ICTs and he leaves a fantastic legacy in this area. His project on the use of immersive gaming as a driver for writing was exemplary EAL practice in the classroom. He’s been instrumental in conceiving of and developing the EMTAS EAL e-learning available to schools across the county as part of the SLA. The EMTAS Moodle, the blog, the videoscribes and the app ‘Big Ideas’ were other contributions made by Chris to the resources available to staff in schools. He led on the project that looked at Hampshrie’s Fijian communities, resulting in a dual language book about Rugby being produced, along with two new Fijian/English versions of titles in the Mantra collection of dual language books. We also have Chris to thank for the new Heritage Honours Award, the subject of a recent blog from Henry Cort. All at EMTAS will miss him greatly.
On the Bilingual Assistant team, we say goodbye to Cintia, who has been working with our Portuguese speaking children and families, and Marianne, who has been supporting our French referrals. We wish them the best of luck in their new ventures.
We extend a warm welcome back Astrid Dinneen, who returned in July following maternity leave. Astrid will be back working with schools in Basingstoke & Deane, along with overseeing the blog and the Young Interpreter Scheme, and much more!
As a result of the staff changes to the teacher team, there will be some changes to the geographical areas the Specialist teacher team will be covering from September. Helen Smith has spent the last year supporting schools in Basingstoke and Deane but, from September, Astrid will be resuming her work in this area. Instead, Helen will be supporting schools in Test Valley. As we bid farewell to Chris Pim, Jamie Earnshaw will be taking the lead in Fareham and Gosport.
We also welcome Abi Guler to our Bilingual Assistant team. He will be working with our Turkish families.
We have some exciting projects up our sleeves for 2020-21!
After having to be postponed on two occasions, we are very much looking forward to our EMTAS Conference, which is to be held on Friday 15th October.
We will be continuing to hold our termly network meetings. Check the Training section of the EMTAS website for dates and to see what these sessions will cover.
Following the support we provided to students completing a Heritage Language GCSE this academic year, we look forward to sharing the results in September. We will also be getting ready to support students with Heritage Language GCSEs in the autumn and again next summer. We will keep you posted with news of the packages of support we will be offering.
Have a great summer and we look forward to seeing you all next term!
More news coming soon...
Visit the Hampshire EMTAS website
[ Modified: Wednesday, 21 July 2021, 4:51 PM ]
Anyone in the world
In this blog and accompanying videoscribe, Chris Pim, Hampshire EMTAS Specialist Teacher Advisor, provides an overview of the needs of more advanced learners of English as an additional language (EAL) and identifies some ways in which schools can support this group of learners in their journey to full proficiency in their use of English across the curriculum.
Most schools have a range of children working at different stages in their learning of English as an additional language. Those schools which actively track progress using a specific EAL assessment framework will be aware that rates of progress vary enormously depending on the context of the child, their age and the specific curriculum area within which they are working at any given time.
Broadly speaking, pupils who are new to English or at an early stage of learning EAL make rapid progress with inclusive teaching and learning practices. However, research shows that more advanced learners, those who have been studying English for around two or more years, can plateau in their learning at various points in their school career. More advanced EAL learners often require specific types of literacy-based support for many years after acquiring oral proficiency.
So, who are our more advanced EAL learners? These learners, who are often but not exclusively British born, appear to speak and understand English at an age appropriate level, yet still require specific support to overcome the cognitive and academic challenges of the curriculum. Some, but by no means all, will also be literate in one or more other languages.
These pupils sometimes slip under the radar of schools, whose focus is often more on beginners; in some cases, they may not even be flagged up on the school’s data systems as EAL at all. There are obvious indicators to look out for, such as reading miscomprehension of key texts and evidence in writing of typical grammatical errors or where writing has obviously been copied from peers or indiscriminately drawn from online sources. However, a more rigorous focus on diagnostic assessment is the only sure way of identifying the specific areas that need attention for each pupil.
Practitioners need to consider the language demands of the curriculum in order to ensure that they plan to teach the specific language and literacy elements presented by each subject area. And practitioners shouldn’t underestimate the significance of the cultural context of the curriculum either. EAL learners, whether UK born or not, sometimes grow up lacking a degree of cultural capital that means they miss important nuances that inhibit understanding. That’s why the best practitioners make meaning explicit for all their learners through well-planned sequences of lessons using a range of multimodal sources; this helps to make messages abundantly clear.
Abridged texts, simple English versions of key information and translated sources, where appropriate, will aid reading comprehension. Digital texts can be made more accessible via text to speech synthesis. Pupils will also benefit from specific guidance on how to make the most of dictionaries and thesauri.
Schools which cater well for more advanced learners of EAL often have a whole school focus on developing academic oracy and talk for writing approaches; strategies which benefit all pupils. Well planned collaborative activities, drama and role-play, presentations, Dictogloss and Socratic talk activities will convert thinking and talking into better academic writing across the curriculum. Recording thoughts and conversations and replaying them prior to writing has also been shown to improve the cohesion of pupils’ writing.
Another beneficial strategy is a specific focus on pre-teaching and rehearsing the use of key vocabulary, both technical and academic, including exam terminology. A specific focus on Greek and Latin stem and root words can be helpful. Call-out games like follow-me, Bingo and vocabulary Jenga are fun ways to consolidate vocabulary knowledge. Card-based matching games are also very useful. Word clouds drawn from key texts are a great way to get children thinking about subject content, text-type and genre.
Converting thinking and talking into great writing is a perennial problem for some more advanced EAL learners. Technology has a role here - supportive word processors and in-built soft keyboards can help pupils compose digital texts – for example through speech to text, word prediction and integrated spellcheckers and thesauri. The process need scaffolding using knowledge organisers, writing frames and key word banks. And text-types like recount, persuasion and argumentation need modelling to help pupils understand the conventions most frequently required for each specific subject area.
Above all, more advanced EAL learners want approachable teachers who understand their needs, make explicit the next steps in their learning and maintain high expectations at all times.
Hampshire EMTAS Guidance Library - Advanced EAL Learners
Aide-memoire of best practice
Ensuring the attainment of more advanced learners of English as an additional language
Bell Foundation EAL Resources (search by language level)
[ Modified: Monday, 14 December 2020, 5:24 PM ]
Anyone in the world
By Lisa Kalim, Hampshire EMTAS Specialist Teacher Advisor.
When a school has concerns about the progress of one of their bilingual pupils, an underlying SEND is often suspected. But how can teachers decide whether this is the case or whether the pupil is just going through the normal process of acquiring English as an Additional Language? Lisa Kalim discusses how to tackle this tricky decision and signposts the support that EMTAS can offer.
So, you have concerns about a bilingual pupil in your class - let’s call her Agata. She is a likeable, well behaved pupil with good social skills and a talent for sport, but her academic progress has been slower than you had expected. You are worried that Agata will not reach the required standard by the end of the year. You are concerned that she sometimes appears not to understand what is said in class. Agata is very quiet and only responds to direct questions in class, usually with just a one or two-word answer. Sometimes it looks like she has drifted off into a daydream – she seems to find maintaining her concentration difficult for longer periods of time. She struggles to produce independent written work. The written work that she does produce is very short, uses very simple vocabulary and contains grammatical errors. However, you are not sure if this is just because Agata has English as an Additional Language or whether she may also have an underlying Special Educational Need/Disability. Where should you start?
Think of the process as being a bit like doing a jig-saw puzzle but where the pieces are scattered around in different places, are mixed up with some pieces from different puzzles that you don’t need, and the box lid is missing so you don’t have the picture to help you. You need to gather all the pieces that you need together, discount the pieces that belong to other puzzles and then you can start to put the pieces together to make the picture. So, in relation to Agata, there are lots of pieces of information and evidence that you need to collect, some things you need to check and possibly discount, and then you can start to consider and analyse what you have found out. Following this process will hopefully result in you being able to reach a conclusion on whether Agata could have an underlying SEND or whether her needs are just related to having EAL. However, sometimes it is necessary to continue monitoring a pupil causing concern for a longer period before deciding, or to refer to EMTAS for help if still unsure.
Steps to take:
1. Record the reason/s for your concerns and inform other relevant school staff such as your SENDCo. EMTAS have developed an easy to use suggested format for doing this and recording the information/evidence described below. It can be found here.
2. Collect as much background information as you can about Agata. This should include:
when she arrived in the UK or whether she was born here
information about her family background including which countries they have lived in and when
which language/s are spoken in Agata’s home and details of any others that she may have been exposed to in other contexts
any relevant medical information such as diagnosed conditions, significant illnesses, periods of hospitalisation etc.
information regarding Agata’s early childhood development including whether developmental milestones were achieved at the expected times
details of her previous education (if any) including information on any gaps or interruptions and her levels of attainment
whether she has been identified as having any type of SEND by health/educational professionals in her country of origin or elsewhere and if so, gather as much detail as possible
whether the pupil has experienced significant trauma during her life
attendance data since she has been in your school
If Agata has been previously assessed by EMTAS you will find much of this information on her profile report. You should also speak with the pupil’s parents/carers, using an interpreter if needed. (EMTAS may be able to help with an interpreter if required – please contact our office to enquire.) This can reveal extremely useful information that you may not have been aware of previously which proves key to the decision around EAL/SEND. Sometimes a parent/carer has crucial information but has not been able to convey it to school staff until a meeting facilitated by an interpreter takes place.
3. Collect evidence/information on the following:
Agata’s strengths and areas in need of development
the steps that have already been taken in meeting her needs, including teaching strategies, resources used and support for EAL. If appropriate teaching strategies and resources for learners of EAL have not been consistently used over the time that Agata has been in school in the UK then this could explain her slower rate of progress making it appear that she might have SEND when actually she may not have
Agata’s current levels of achievement in English (listening, speaking, reading and writing). EMTAS recommends that you use an EAL-specific assessment tool such as the Bell Foundation’s EAL Assessment Framework to do this, available here: Bell Foundation framework.
Agata’s rate of progress over time in English and other curriculum areas. Include information gained from using the Bell Foundation’s EAL Assessment Framework (or other EAL-specific framework) together with the perceptions of teaching staff, pupil, parents and any other agencies involved.
samples of Agata’s work over time
4. Collect information about Agata’s proficiency in her first language. You need to know her proficiency in speaking, listening, reading and writing (if literate in first language) in as much detail as possible. This is important as difficulties in first language can be an indicator of some types of SEND. With speaking and listening, check whether there any difficulties apparent in her speech sound pronunciation, her use of grammar and vocabulary use, as well as how fluent she is, how well she can communicate and whether she has any difficulty understanding what has been said to her. With reading and writing it is important to know how much schooling Agata has had conducted in her first language when considering her proficiency. Remember that many countries start their formal education later than in the UK which may mean that they have had less years of schooling than their contemporaries here in which case a lower level of literacy is to be expected. It is also important to bear in mind that pupils who were born in the UK will have had less exposure to their first language compared to their peers born in their country of origin and so may have less well developed proficiency. Thus, it is very important to bear in mind that a lower level of first language proficiency does not always indicate an underlying SEND.
5. Analyse all the information/evidence collected. (Try and put the pieces of the jig-saw together.)
6. Carefully think about whether there are other factors that could explain Agata’s perceived difficulties:
Is her attendance poor or has she had extended absences from school either in the UK or whilst in country of origin?
Has she experienced a high level of mobility during her life involving frequent moves between countries or schools?
Has she had exposure to multiple languages/different languages at different times during her life? (if so, she will require additional time to acquire proficiency).
Has she had an unnoticed problem with her eyesight, hearing or other medical problem that has affected her ability to learn?
Has she received appropriate EAL support in school or was it stopped too soon?
Has she been placed in appropriate ability groups/sets (if used)? – EAL learners should not be placed in lower ability groups unless they are known to also have SEND.
Has she experienced significant trauma, bullying, racism, bereavement or difficult living situations which could have affected her learning?
Is she unhappy in school or about living in the UK?
Has there been a misunderstanding about the typical length of time required for pupils with EAL to reach equivalence with their monolingual peers, leading to you having unrealistic expectations?
Have tasks been set that are too academic for Agata’s current level of language proficiency? Remember that it generally takes around two years for pupils to acquire conversational fluency in English and up to ten years to reach full academic equivalence.
7. Based on all the above, try to decide whether Agata does have an underlying SEND or whether her needs are just related to having EAL. It may be helpful to talk this through with a colleague such as your SENDCo. If you are still unsure it may be that further monitoring of Agata’s progress over a longer period is needed after which it will become clearer whether she does have an underlying SEND or not. Additional help is available from EMTAS if you need it (see below).
Help available from EMTAS:
EMTAS have a range of resources available to help you when distinguishing between EAL and SEND.
Our website has a section dedicated to this topic here.
A handy aide memoire which summarises key points around EAL/SEND (pictured at the beginning of this blog)
An article on standardised testing and EAL learners which discusses why such tests may not be helpful when assessing bilingual pupils.
Our Moodle has an e-learning module on distinguishing the difference between EAL and SEND
The EMTAS EAL/SEND phone line runs every Tuesday afternoon in term time from 12.00-4.00pm. Callers can discuss individual pupils that they have concerns about and receive advice. If necessary, a school visit can be arranged by an EMTAS Teacher Advisor. They will then be able to assist you with assessing them and advise on any appropriate next steps. Before calling is best to have already collected as much information/evidence about your pupil as possible as outlined above.
So, did Agata have SEND as well as EAL or not I hear you ask. After following the steps above, Agata’s teacher concluded that she most likely did not. Key to this decision was the collection of background information/evidence which showed that Agata had only been in school in the UK for just over three years and so would require at least another four to five years (maybe even a little more) of UK education before reaching full academic equivalence with her peers. Additionally, assessment of her skills in first language showed a good level of proficiency for the number of years of education that she had received in her country of origin and her progress across all curriculum areas was average to above average before she came to the UK. This suggested that SEND was unlikely. Some of the other areas of concern were in fact quite typical features of pupils learning EAL (e.g. the grammatical errors in writing, finding sustaining concentration for long periods when working in English difficult, and not understanding some more academic language used in the classroom). Furthermore, on reflection, her teacher decided that EAL support had probably been stopped too soon for Agata. As a result of going through this process, Agata’s teacher was then able to put in place appropriate on-going EAL support for her. She continued to monitor Agata’s progress and was pleased with her rate of progress going forwards.
[ Modified: Wednesday, 16 December 2020, 10:01 AM ]