Who are they? What are their needs?
Pupils learning English as an additional language (EAL) share many common characteristics with pupils whose first language is English. Many of their learning needs are similar to those of other children and young people learning in our schools. However, these pupils also have distinct and different needs from other pupils by virtue of the fact that they are learning in and through an additional language, whilst also learning that language. In addition, they come from cultural backgrounds and communities with different understandings and expectations of education, language and learning.
A number of factors will have an impact on the development of pupils’ language skills and their ability to apply these skills to their learning across the curriculum:
- the age at which pupils enter the educational system;
- their previous experience of schooling and literacy in their first language;
- their knowledge, skills and understanding of languages and the school curriculum;
- home and community expectations and understanding of the education system;
- support structures for learning and language development at home and at school.
Pupils with English as an additional language are not a homogeneous group. Teachers and educational policy makers need to be aware of the range of variables in relation to both individual learners and groups. These variables will also be significant when interpreting the overall task which learning EAL entails:
- Some pupils are born in the UK but enter school speaking little or no English and have limited or no experience of literacy in their first language.
- Some pupils are born in the UK but enter school speaking little or no English. However, they have some experience of literacy in their first languages.
- Some pupils arrive between the ages of 5 and 16 without literacy or oracy skills in English but with age equivalent skills in literacy and oracy in their first languages, and sometimes in other languages as well.
- Some pupils enter the school system between the ages of 5 and 16 without literacy or oracy skills in English and with limited or no literacy skills in their first language due to disrupted schooling.
- In addition, some pupils have suffered emotional and psychological stress as a result of family loss or social and economic disruption to their lives in their countries of origin.