Chiaka Amadi on Leading EAL in Secondary Schools

Schools with no pupils with English as an additional language (EAL) account for only 0.5% of state funded mainstream English secondary schools. Schools with more 100 EAL pupils are almost half of all secondary schools and schools with more than 250 EAL pupils nearly a quarter of all secondary schools. Leading EAL in secondary schools is, therefore, a major issue.

When I was first asked to develop an online course for colleagues leading EAL in secondary schools, I felt my first task was to begin by raising participants’ awareness of the abundance of characteristics that sit under the umbrella called ‘EAL’. Teachers readily acknowledge that all children have their own personalities, but some of the characteristics that sometimes come together under the umbrella term “EAL” are viewed more positively than others. While ‘bilingual’ and ‘multilingual’ are welcomed, some colleagues might be a little more reluctant to work with children who have ‘little English’ or ‘gaps in previous schooling’.

Luckily, the variety of languages children bring into our schools, along with the diversity of their social and cultural identities are seen as factors that enrich our working environments.

The course works systematically through those areas of responsibility that a lead for EAL should attend to, such as welcoming new pupils, helping them to settle in and make friends, and ensuring the necessary administrative tasks are dealt with. It also gets participants to rehearse how they might raise issues about the EAL experience, including negative staffroom gossip, with line managers or at wider staff briefings.

In schools, we often talk about ‘EAL pupils’, but we don’t always say much about ‘EAL pedagogy’. This course has a stab at differentiating between teaching the vast body of content that anyone might call ‘English’ as opposed to the development of teaching strategies that enable pupils to gain access to, and take control of, the ways that academic content is communicated, negotiated and then thoroughly understood.

Participants work remotely at their own pace, through a mix of original content and official (DfE) guidance. Recommended reading and viewing are also included.

The final assessment asks participants to describe how they teach of a group of pupils in the setting where they work. As it’s not possible to visit each participant where they work, I really like this. It’s a great way to get a flavour EAL teaching in practice and hear about the creative ways in which teachers are dealing with their pupils’ language needs. If you want to be part of the conversation, I recommend you sign up.

 

Chiaka Amadi

You can find out more about Chiaka here.

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