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English and EAL

Resources and articles to support teaching English to primary and secondary EAL learners

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English is a core subject of the National Curriculum and English is also the 'language of schooling' eg the oral and written medium of instruction for the whole curriculum. ‘English across the curriculum’ conceptualises pupils applying their knowledge of speaking, listening, reading and writing to other areas of subject knowledge. The subject of English is highly politicised and contested. No other curriculum area undergoes such continuous scrutiny and revision.

English as an Additional Language is, in contrast, a ‘diffuse’ curriculum area (Leung 2001) which is not articulated as a distinct subject or a controversial domain of learning although, like English, EAL crosses all curriculum subjects. Pupils learning EAL apply their developing knowledge of English as well as their other languages in all subject areas. There is sometimes a tendency to assume that learning an additional language across the curriculum will develop ‘naturally’ in a school environment or will largely be achieved through English as a subject.

Effective English teachers provide pupils with frequent and extended opportunities to interact with peers and adults in a learning context. It is tempting therefore to subsume the needs of pupils learning EAL in ‘good practice for all pupils’, where, as many teachers regularly observe, pupils learning EAL rapidly ‘pick up’ English in order to communicate and participate in routine classroom situations. However pupils with English as their first language perform better than pupils learning EAL at every stage of education. More than universal good practice is required to address the needs of pupils learning EAL in the mainstream classroom.

Whilst each subject area makes different demands on all pupils as language users, the curriculum in English can create additional linguistic and cultural demands on pupils learning EAL, making subject knowledge and understanding more challenging. In spite of these linguistic and cultural challenges, statutory assessment in English for pupils learning EAL is the same as for native-English speaking pupils.

Teachers can support pupils learning EAL by focussing on pupils’ language development in the context of a challenging curriculum, by taking account in planning and in practice of how diverse curriculum content is expressed and understood through language. Teachers can make explicit the connections between English as a subject and English as the medium of teaching all curriculum content in order to help pupils learning EAL to access and use the full range of technical and cultural domains of language. Teaching which reflects the distinctive nature of learning with EAL is also underpinned by relevant texts and resources which promote inclusion and equality by enabling all pupils actively to use their cultural and language experiences for learning.

On this page you can find articles and resources to help you focus on pupils EAL development within English.