Teaching Pupils for whom English is an
Additional Language
Informing Teacher Educators
Carrie Cable and Kimberly Safford
NALDIC November 2008
In England, 1 in 10 pupils are learning English as an additional
language (EAL).
Some teachers work with EAL learners on a daily basis, some
much less frequently, but most teachers will work with EAL
learners at some point in their career.
Yet many new teachers feel completely unprepared by their
teacher training to meet the needs of these pupils.
The aspect of ITT rated lowest by NQTs in 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006 and 2007 was:
Preparing them to work with learners with English as an additional language
Percentage of respondents who thought their training was:
Very good
These findings are not entirely unsurprising.
In contrast with many other English-speaking countries, in the UK
teaching and learning with EAL
• does not have a separate curriculum or syllabus
• takes place within the mainstream
• takes place within all subjects.
In the UK, pupils with EAL are learning in mainstream classrooms
where the needs of all pupils have to be met. It is sometimes
difficult for new teachers to take account of the distinctive
learning situation of pupils learning EAL, particularly if their
initial teacher education has not prepared them for this.
The learning of English for pupils learning EAL takes place as
much in science, mathematics, ICT and the foundation subjects or
across the areas of learning as it does in English or literacy
It also takes place within the ‘hidden curriculum’, and beyond the
school and is affected by attitudes to race and culture in the
wider society.
If EAL were a separate subject (like a modern foreign language)
the raison d'etre for learners would clearly be learning a language
but for pupils learning EAL in mainstream classrooms in England
this is not the case.
EAL has not always been recognised as a distinct area of
education but EAL pedagogy has a knowledge base from theory
and research, and has its own principled strategies for teaching in
the mainstream context which promote language learning
alongside academic content learning.
All trainee teachers need to have an understanding of this field of
education if they are to feel prepared to work with EAL pupils in
schools and if they are to meet the TDA standards for the award
of QTS.
•Q18 Understand how children and young people develop and that
the progress and well-being of learners are affected by a range of
developmental, social, religious, ethnic, cultural and linguistic
•Q19 Know how to make effective personalised provision for those
they teach, including those for whom English is an additional
language or who have special educational needs or disabilities,
and how to take practical account of diversity and promote
equality and inclusion in their teaching.
•Q5 Recognise and respect the contribution that colleagues,
parents and carers can make to the development and well-being
of children and young people and to raising their levels of
•Q6 Have a commitment to collaboration and co-operative
•Q20 Know and understand the roles of colleagues with specific
responsibilities, including those with responsibility for learners
with special educational needs and disabilities and other
individual learning needs.
•Q33 Ensure that colleagues working with them are appropriately
involved in supporting learning and understand the roles they are
expected to fulfil.
Teachers who have acquired expertise in EAL, whether they are
specialists or class/subject teachers, will:
• understand progression in second/additional language learning;
• be able to assess pupils' understanding of curriculum content and
use this information in their planning;
• draw on pupils' bicultural and bilingual knowledge and
• incorporate first language knowledge and use appropriate staff
resources where available;
• take account of the variables that apply in different contexts, and
capitalise on the potential for working in partnership with their
mainstream/specialist colleagues.
Our work with ITT providers has outlined the following issues:
• That it is not just tutors new to ITT who request guidance and
• That tutors working in SCITTs are particularly anxious for
• That tutors, both very experienced and new to the issues greatly
value discussing and sharing ideas in small groups and networking;
• That EAL issues are a low priority for a number of ITT providers
and are addressed in one-off sessions by a guest lecturer who has
no input into or influence on the programme as a whole;
• Programme leaders in ITT need to be involved if EAL is to be
embedded effectively in a programme;
• Where there is a commitment to EAL issues providers meet the
challenge of preparing trainees in low diversity contexts.
The website development has been part of a six
year TDA funded project to develop an EAL Subject
Resource Network (SRN). This SRN for ITE tutors
provides tutors with extensive but accessible
background information on key aspects of EAL
teaching and learning grouped under the following
Knowledge & Understanding;
Bilingualism and second language acquisition;
Language and curriculum;
Language and Literacy;
Supporting bilingual children in the early years;
Supporting EAL learners in mainstream classrooms;
EAL and National Curriculum subjects;
Community languages;
Working with EAL specialists and other support staff;
Combating racism;
SEN and gifted and talented; and
• Teaching refugee and asylum seeker pupils.
The ongoing work with ITT providers has resulted in the following:
• Examples of programme structures identifying where dedicated
sessions are required and where and how EAL issues are embedded
across the whole curriculum;
• Examples of directed tasks, assignments and assessment procedures
that support trainees’ understanding of the principles of working with
bilingual learners and enable them to demonstrate their knowledge
and skills and how they have met the relevant standards;
• Identification of strategies that are particularly effective in low
diversity settings and school based programmes;
• References, annotated bibliographies, resource lists and direct links
to material available on the internet and, in particular, to the IPRN
Diversity (Multiverse) site;
• Networks of experienced and less experienced tutors who will share
advice and good practice.
The website
is open to all and has grown steadily in popularity. It
now receives over 6000 visits each month, with a
pleasing growth in regular visitors. New strands of
work developed this year have included a professional
development module for ITE staff to deliver relating to
working with others, using Teachers TV material to
support teacher education re EAL and a commissioned
strand on working with bilingual learners in the EYFS.
In the final phase of the project (2008/9) we intend
to release two major strands of work.
One relating to Assessment for Learning for
bilingual learners and the other to support
tutors to assess how well trainees meet QTS
Standard 19
Other developments
NALDIC has lobbied since its inception for the
development of professional qualifications for all staff
working with EAL learners, including specialist
qualifications for teachers and teaching assistants and
CPD for mainstream staff. We are pleased to report
that in May this year EAL was recognised as a new
national priority within the work of the TDA.
The 2008−09 TDA remit letter from the Department for
Children Schools and Families (DCSF) identified the
development of CPD for the school workforce relating
to EAL as a new national priority in these terms:
Recognising the increasing significance of EAL support
for children and young people, the Agency should take
forward work within the integrated qualifications
framework to develop a pathway of qualifications for
teachers and support staff to provide leadership in
effective EAL teaching and learning.
In August 2008, NALDIC successfully bid to undertake a national
audit of EAL training and development opportunities available to
the school workforce.
This important audit will help inform the TDA’s five-year strategy
to provide high quality guidance, training and professional
development to the whole of the school workforce in the delivery
and development of EAL. In addition, a requirement of the fiveyear strategy is to develop links and partnerships with NALDIC and
to investigate the development of specialist EAL initial teaching
qualifications alongside comprehensive EAL continuing
professional development up to Masters in Teaching and Learning
level and the extension of vocational qualifications for the wider
Pupils learning EAL
Pupils learning EAL share many common characteristics with pupils whose
first language is English, and many of their learning needs are similar to
those of other children and young people learning in our schools.
But these pupils also have distinct and different needs from other pupils
by virtue of the fact that they are learning in and through another
language, and that they come from cultural backgrounds and
communities with different understandings and expectations of
education, language and learning.
Pupils learning EAL are not a homogeneous group
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
• 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
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
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
Some pupils arrive between the ages of 5 and 16 without literacy or oracy
skills in English but with age equivalent skills in literacy, oracy and
subject areas 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
and subject skills in their first language due to disrupted schooling.
Some pupils arrive between the ages of 5 and 16 with some literacy or
oracy skills in English and with age equivalent skills in literacy, oracy and
subject areas in their first languages, and sometimes in other languages
as well.
The distinctiveness of the EAL learner's task
Whatever their age and background, the distinctive nature of the EAL
learner's task is to 'catch up' with a moving target by engaging in
learning an additional language simultaneously with learning the
curriculum content, skills and concepts.
Mapping the task from the EAL learners' perspective, taking account of
their starting points will help trainee teachers to understand the
learner's situation and to plan teaching strategies which are appropriate
for EAL learners.
Average pupil
The EAL learner’s task is to
‘catch up’ from a different
starting point. If this does not
happen by the end of KS1, the
task may become increasingly
required for
Required EAL
Lower EAL
The distinctiveness of EAL pedagogy
EAL pedagogy is the set of systematic teaching approaches which have
evolved from classroom based practices in conjunction with the
development of knowledge through theoretical and research perspectives
and meets the language and learning needs of EAL pupils in a wide range
of different teaching contexts.
In the UK, teachers will need to support EAL learners to develop
cognitive academic English language proficiency through the mainstream
curriculum, through the integration of language and curriculum
Principles which underpin good practice for pupils
learning EAL
Although every teaching situation is different, these principles underpin
good practice for teaching EAL learners.
• Activating prior knowledge
• The provision of a rich contextual background to make input
• Actively encouraging comprehensible output
• Drawing the learner's attention to the relationship between
form and function; making key grammatical elements explicit
• Developing learner independence
Further Advice and Guidance
We hope that you will find the resources and information on our site
useful in considering your own guidance for new initial teacher
OCCASIONAL PAPER 10 The Language Education of Newly Qualified
Teachers (1997) John Edwards
NALDIC WORKING PAPER 5 The Distinctiveness of English as an Additional
Language (1999). A handbook for all teachers on what is distinctive about
EAL as a field of education.
OCCASIONAL PAPER 13 Subject teachers’ and EAL teachers’ discursive
classroom practices:teachers’ relationships and talk (2001)Angela Creese
OCCASIONAL PAPER 14 Learning from listening:talk in a multilingual
mathematics classroom (2001) Richard Barwell
NALDIC WORKING PAPER 6 Teaching EAL in the Mainstream Curriculum:
Vignettes of Classroom Practice (2001)
NALDIC BOOK 2 Language and Additional/Second Language Issues for
School Education. A reader for teachers. (2002) Edited by Constant
OCCASIONAL PAPER 16 Bilingual education past and present. (2003) Viv
Teachers and Pupils in the Big Picture: seeing
real children in routinised assessment (2003) Kimberly Safford
NALDIC WORKING PAPER 7 Teaching learners of English as an Additional
Language: A review of official guidance (2004)
NALDIC WORKING PAPER 8 Teaching isolated bilingual learners(2005)
OCCASIONAL PAPER 21 Linking theory and practice in improving learning:
collaborative action research in multilingual primary classrooms (2008)
Jean Conteh, Rita Kumar and Derek Beddow
All the above publications can be ordered from NALDIC
Many agencies have produced advisory documents which aim to increase the level
of teacher awareness and teacher professionalism in this field. Many of these are
referenced on the NALDIC ITT site in addition to our own advice and guidance.
TTA:Raising the Attainment of Minority Ethnic Pupils Effective language and
learning support for pupils for whom English is an additional language
National Curriculum: Statutory Inclusion Statement
You may also wish to refer to guidance documents which relate specifically to EAL
learners in different areas of learning/subjects.
Primary Strategy/National Literacy Strategy:
Framework for Teaching Children with English as an additional language,
Supporting Pupils Learning English as an Additional Language
Primary Strategy/National Numeracy Strategy:
Framework for Teaching Mathematics from Reception to Year 6, Mathematical
Working collaboratively with ITE providers
We hope that ITE providers will find the resources and information on our site useful in
considering their own guidance for new initial teacher educators in subject areas.
In addition we are happy to provide specific support for colleagues at institutional level
including specific seminars and workshops for providers.

Teaching Pupils for whom English is an Additional Language