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Former teacher talks about the current EAL challenge for UK schools

It’s clear that the EAL challenge is increasing for teachers and being a former teacher, I understand the pressures they are under to demonstrate that their pupils with EAL are making enough progress.

When I was completing my teaching degree, I received very little training on how to support newly arrived pupils in my class and by the time I was a class teacher, I found that most of my colleagues had very little EAL knowledge, often simply being asked to “get on with it”, given the resource constraints at the school.  As the dynamics of our schools are changing, I believe, its essential that all teachers are provided with sufficient training to better understand EAL challenges and how they can plan for and better support pupils. As well as this, it would be helpful for them to be more aware of the type of external support and resources available to them.

One of the main priorities of a class teacher is to make sure the needs of every pupil are consistently being met. Within every class, differentiation is the key to making sure all pupils meet the learning outcome of the lesson. However, to do this successfully requires a lot of time planning and developing/accessing the right resources, as well as delivering the lesson itself!

One of the most valuable resources in the classroom is the TA, but it is sometimes challenging for teachers to split the TA’s time so he/she can meet the needs of all the pupils, especially those pupils who require a lot of adult input and support. Therefore, when I was teaching in a class with many EAL pupils, I was sometimes left feeling frustrated because it was not always possible to meet their needs as there were no resources that would support their learning whilst working independently.

EAL Visual Guides

When a pupil with EAL starts school, they need to know how to interact with their peers and members of staff, both verbally and non-verbally so they can become confident learners and confident members of their peer group. In order for the child to do this, it’s essential that they can access the basic English ‘survival’ vocabulary they need, as well as the key vocabulary they need to access the curriculum subjects.

From my own experience, myself and many other teachers have had to rely on peer group support as well as valuable TA support to provide the opportunities for EAL pupils to do this.  In some cases, pupils with an EAL challenge will be left feeling frustrated because they cannot communicate their basic needs and interact with their peers effectively. This can often lead to poor behaviour which can be another challenge for the teacher to tackle.

In my teaching experience, I’ve found that the EAL challenge is not just restricted to the classroom but it also extends to the pupil’s home as well. When the pupil’s parents have limited English, this can not only be frustrating for them but for the pupil and also the teacher. I’ve found that limited parental English can have an impact on pupil progress, as sometimes, they simply do not receive the support they need, not because the parent’s do not want to support their child but because they do not have the English Language skills to do so.

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Now working within an Education Technology company (Learning Labs), I can see clearly how a platform such as FlashAcademy EAL can really benefit teachers, parents and pupils because it not only saves time for teaching staff but it’s also a resource that is fun and interactive for the pupils.

It also allows the pupils to progress in their basic survival English skills and to also gain access to the curriculum by learning key vocabulary in an engaging way, all tailored to their home language.

If you have any questions, email me at gemma@flashsticks.com and I’ll happily get back to you! I post regularly on my reflections as a teacher of EAL pupils on the FlashAcademy blog.

If you are looking for strategies to cope with your EAL Challenge, join us on the 10th May at our EAL Birmingham 2018 Conference. Register Now.

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