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EAL SEN and Inclusion

EAL and SEN professional development resources for teacher educators


Teachers need to respond to the needs of all bilingual learners they teach, including those with special educational needs and EAL learners who are gifted and talented. When a child who is learning English as an additional language makes slow progress in school, it is difficult to tell whether the delay is caused because they are not confident using the language of the school or because they have 'real' learning difficulties independently of the language difference.

In this section, teacher educators can find exemplar sessions which provide a clear outline of the issues involved and implications for practice. By the end of these sessions, trainees will be able to:

  • Explain key principles that should inform the identification and assessment of possible special educational needs (SEN) of pupils who are learning English as an additional language (EAL)
  • Outline the information that is needed in that situation
  • Explain how complex and severe SEN may interact with learning EAL and what implications that may have for teaching and classroom management

This will help trainees to meet the Professional Standards for the award of Qualified Teacher Status (TDA 2007) and all teachers meet the Teachers' Standards (2011) which take their place from 2012.

It is assumed that this module will be studied at a point when student have already had some experience in schools through placements or school based training. No other assumption is made about the previous experience of the trainees who study the module. Even in mainly monolingual areas, however, groups may often include at least some individuals who will have experience of living or working in a multilingual environment. In addition, in any area a group may contain individuals who have direct experience of living or working with people who have special educational needs. Tutors will wish to take these possibilities into account when using the materials.

The concept of “Inclusion” has sometimes been discussed in educational circles as though it relates only to educating children with SEN in mainstream schools. In this module it is always used in the broader sense which is much more common today in official, academic and professional documents. For an account of the broader usage of the term and a list of references in which you can read about the subject in more depth in other sections.


The material is divided into three parts with the expectation that it will usually be delivered in three sessions of an hour each. It is also possible to deliver the module in one long three hour session. The scheduling of the general programme into which the module has to fit will no doubt determine which of these alternatives is adopted in most cases.

The three parts (sessions) are:
Session 1 Key principles and procedures relating to Inclusion, SEN and EAL
Session 2 Assessment and planning for children learning EAL who may have SEN
Session 3 Children learning EAL who have complex or severe SEN

If a training provider is able to allocate only two hours to this topic, it is suggested that the third session is cut. Students will not then be well prepared for working with pupils with complex and severe needs who are often now included in mainstream classrooms, but they will at least have received some preparation for basic tasks with pupils learning EAL who make slow progress or present mild or moderate SEN in mainstream schools.

Session 3 on its own may be used as the basis of a short school-based in-service training course where its subject matter has particular relevance for the staff concerned, e.g. when a school is due to admit a child with complex special educational needs who is learning EAL and has no previous experience of working with such a child.

The materials that are provided here include:

  • Powerpoint slides for each session.
  • Handouts for students, including case study material.
  • A recording of an interview between an educational psychologist and a class teacher about a pupil who is experiencing difficulties in a mainstream primary classroom.
  • An introduction and background guidance notes on each session designed to help a tutor who is not expert in the field to handle student queries and comments. These notes also cover the tasks and activities that are set.

Pre-module reading

There is no prescribed advance reading or preparatory task for students in relation to this module. Tutors will need to evaluate their own readiness for teaching the module. The following advance reading may be useful for those who are relatively unfamiliar with this area of work:

Baker, C. (2006). Foundations of Bilingual Education and Bilingualism. 4th edition. Clevedon, Avon, Multilingual Matters.
A comprehensive introduction to bilingualism and bilingual education. Chapter 15 provides an overview of issues in relation to bilingualism, assessment and SEN
Frederickson, N. and Cline, T. (2009). Special Educational Needs, Inclusion and Diversity: A Textbook. Second edition. Buckingham: Open University Press
This textbook aimed to view SEN and inclusion in the context of schools and societies that have greatly enhanced linguistic, cultural and ethnic diversity. The opening chapters (1 - 4) will be relevant to preparatory reading for the module, as will those parts of Chapter 10 which focus on EAL and bilingualism. (Later in the module Chapters 6 - 7 will be recommended for an overview of the identification and assessment issues that are covered in Session 2.)
Hall, D. (2001). Assessing the Needs of Bilingual Pupils: Living in Two Languages. Second edition. London: David Fulton.
This highly practical book provides an introduction to the theoretical background and then sets out useful examples of case studies, assessment approaches and assessment proformas to illustrate strategies for assessing the needs of bilingual pupils.

Contributing Authors

Tony Cline, Educational Psychology Group, University College London) with contributions from:
Nia Jones (Independent Educational Psychologist, London)
Linda Bartlett (EMASS Team Leader, The Children and Young People's Service, Milton Keynes)

First published 20 November 2009

We are not able to make a high quality version of the video resource downloadable from the NALDIC site. A low quality version is therefore made available here. If you find the video quality unacceptable, you may wish to screen this as an audio only.Please contact us at ite@naldic.org.uk. if you would like to discuss this further.