EAL coordinators’ voices
In our new blog series, EAL coordinators Anna Czebiolko and Lois Ashcroft will share their experience, views and expertise with a half-termly contribution. In this very first in the series and based on her very popular talk at the 30th NALDIC conference, Anna Czebiolko provides practitioners who are new to the role of the EAL lead/coordinator with five top tips about resources, assessment, students’ profiles, sharing information and sharing practice.
The EAL coordinator role: five top tips
Overseeing the EAL provision in a large secondary school can be a challenging task. Providing support for families, students and the school staff requires effective organisational skills, subject knowledge and an honest commitment towards the job. OFSTED named our school’s EAL practice as ‘strong’ in the latest report. This important acknowledgment leads us to reflect on the crucial role of the EAL coordinator. Here are some top tips for EAL Coordinators, especially for those who have recently become responsible for the EAL provision in their educational settings.
1. Make the most of opportunities for professional development and resource sharing
EAL pedagogy has been rapidly advancing in recent times. For this reason, ongoing CPD is vital for those working with EAL learners. Attending subject-specific CPD sessions is crucial in order to stay current with the most up-to-date professional recommendations. Growing access to supporting materials, expertise and information is a great advantage and these resources can be later used and implemented by teachers in their own practice. Indeed, the choice of training opportunities is also impressive and its range varies from free-of-charge shorter events such as NALDIC’s Regional Interest Groups to university specialist courses.
2. Ensure you conduct a thorough assessment
Knowing our individual students and their needs and strengths is key to effectively building the EAL provision. For instance, undertaking a thorough assessment that may include the English language proficiency level, the learner’s subject knowledge, literacy skills, and Maths as well as the ability to read and write in the first language will indicate what kind of academic intervention would be the most beneficial. Consequently, the same type of assessment may enable the discovery of a student’s talents and aspirations. The more practical understanding of our students’ needs we have, the more we can support them academically, emotionally and socially.
3. Get to know the students
By constructively analysing the whole cohort of the EAL pupil community, EAL coordinators can identify trends, needs and future directions. This can be implemented by summarising the languages, or students on specific levels. Nevertheless, the awareness of students who progress rapidly and those who may be reluctant to learn can only lead to advantageous decisions. This sort of analysis should be used to personalise the approach towards the cohort and to take actions with specifically intended plans. For instance, by recognising that many students tend to be stuck at the Intermediate level (which appears to be a national trend), the EAL leader can focus more on this specific group of learners and their needs.
4. Share relevant information with school management and teaching staff
Relevant information should be constantly shared across the school, especially with the school management and the teaching staff. EAL coordinators, in their role, will quite frequently act as active messengers between pupils, teachers, educational leaders and families. Setting up an efficient system to share the information in reference to EAL is strongly recommendable. For example, creating folders in which newly acquired teaching resources can be stored, and offering permanent access to the folder can save time and could replace verbal or written ways of communicating. An efficient alternative method could be the use of an internal website for the school staff, where all the EAL-related data can be saved and conveniently accessed by everyone, including a platform for families and students. The extensive offer for adults may provide translations or visualisation of the main school publications and documents. Establishing such a website would also help during potential admission meetings, especially when families are not familiar with the English language. Ultimately, the main goal is to improve the exchange of information.
5. Share practice (CPD for staff)
Finally, sharing good practice and discussing different personalisation methods with the teaching staff would be a way of supporting their EAL practice development. Offering CPD, sharing teaching materials, drop-in sessions or school mini-publications can only have a positive effect and it may lead to gradually building a belief that everyone can be a language teacher. Keeping in mind that EAL has its own pedagogy, boosting the staff’s confidence in this field is appropriate. Nevertheless, it can be observed that there are many subject teachers who are simultaneously becoming recognisable experts in EAL, and they can be inspiring role models within their fields of expertise.
In sum, the role of the EAL coordinator may bring challenges. By taking a smart approach, any potential obstacles become the ultimate igniter to search for solutions. With this in mind, the role of the EAL coordinator can be immensely fascinating and rewarding. The rewards come in the form of small successes every day, well-known to those who observe the effect of their initiatives!