The role of the EAL Coordinator at any school can bring with it enormous responsibility. While direct support for individual students forms part of this responsibility, as important is the job of the EAL specialist to ensure that mainstream colleagues are well informed about their roles. Anna Czebiolko is Head of EAL at Cockburn John Charles Academy in Leeds. In this post she describes a web-based resource she has created to ensure that her mainstream colleagues are fully clued-up about EAL matters at the school.
In times when technology has become an integral part of our everyday routines, not to use its advantages, limits us and our possibilities. We all search the Internet for answers regarding every sphere of our lives. So, why not use technology to guide your work colleagues regarding EAL pedagogy? If you work in a lively school, this way of communicating can be a valuable system to share knowledge, offer guidance and provide responses to frequently asked questions.
I am Head of EAL at Cockburn John Charles Academy in Leeds. This multicultural secondary school offers education to speakers of 44 different languages, who make up 50% of the student population. Unsurprisingly, with numbers like these, EAL is one of our main priorities.
Being in charge of the EAL provision at Cockburn John Charles has made me consider ways to share information about supporting EAL learners with staff. We used to run a club for teachers, have individual appointments for staff, publish a school EAL newsletter, and provide other ad hoc ways to help our mainstream teacher colleagues. It became clear that staff members were asking the same questions and looking for help on the same or similar topics. For example, I was often asked about assessing students’ English proficiency levels, where to find useful websites, and where to get EAL resources. This inspired me to gather my knowledge and material in one place and make it accessible for staff. This led to the creation of our school intranet-based EAL website. This website allows all members of staff to find the information they need about EAL matters whenever they require it.
The idea for the website was simple and practical – what should staff know about EAL?
We took our lead from Mark Sims, Ofsted’s lead for EAL, who notes that effective EAL provision is better when a whole school approach is taken. Mark’s message, along with our school motto ‘Learning for Life’, is the first thing staff see when they enter the website, as a reminder of our collective responsibility for EAL. Also on the Welcome Page is regularly updated information about new students so that all staff are aware of any particular needs, and information about best teaching practice. A recent example came from our Design Technology teacher, Aimee Nichols, showcasing her classroom which includes word mats, displays of key vocabulary, visual guides and mats with additional questions, and step by step instructions designed to help EAL learners.
We also have a Student Profile section, built on a database containing the profiles of students at different English proficiency levels. To this we add personalised information, for example information about SEN, reluctant learners, learners who make slow progress, first languages, length of time in the UK, previous education and so on. These profiles help all teachers understand the backgrounds, levels of attainment, educational, and social/emotional needs of the students. It also allows us to see the language profile of the school and help buddy-up students with similar linguistic backgrounds.
Another important section of the website is about assessment. We explain how we use the Bell Foundation EAL assessment framework, and provide exemplar writing samples so that teachers have benchmarks against which to judge their students’ work. To compete this section, we display whole school information about English language proficiency; how many students at each stage, and the general rate of progress.
Our Top Tips section helps to develop the teaching practice of our colleagues. Sharing useful tips includes presentations from seminars and publications created by other EAL practitioners. We carefully select the resources we share so that they are most relevant to our students.
Many of our teachers are very keen to develop their EAL practice. To address this, we also include a CPD page. This includes useful websites as well as a selection of free on-line courses. These include TESOL strategies, EAL for classroom teachers, and lesson planning with EAL learners in mind.
We also celebrate our Young Interpreters. Every one of our Young Interpreters, a scheme created by Hampshire EMTAS to empower multilingual pupils to peer support other multilingual pupils and their families, has their picture on the website. This means that everyone can check who are the interpreters in each year group and what languages they interpret for.
Finally, for those who prefer to observe real life situations, rather than read about them, there is an EAL TV programme showing scenes recorded during lessons. These include student workshops, new teaching resources and methods, the use of technology (i.e. verbal translators), learning vocabulary and much more. The TV brings the opportunity for staff to watch students in various situations, and provides another way of learning about students’ strengths as well as their challenges.
The EAL website allows all staff to access valuable information about the pupils we teach. It helps us to share good practice, and it provides useful information about EAL generally so that we can meet the aspiration set by our school motto and the words of Mark Sims: Learning for Life – A whole school affair.