Importance of provision for EAL learners in Schools.

Tags: EAL, English as Additional Language, Teaching, Learning, Language, Strategy, Demographics, Education, Science, Progress, National.

Inclusion is an important focus across primary and secondary schools nationwide, with one main goal to ensure that schools are doing all they can to close the attainment gap between all pupils. One group of students that will increasingly need further provision and assistance are EAL (English as an Additional Language) learners.

The purpose of this blog post is for me to develop my own knowledge of how EAL pupils learn, the ways in which they need support to make progress, and how, as a non-language specialist, I can ensure that they understand the concepts and ideas involved in science.

EAL student numbers in schools have increased by 50% since 1997 and currently make up 15.7% of all pupils in secondary schools in England (Department for Education Census, 2016). Therefore, this is a growing proportion of the student population that require more specialist knowledge and provision in the classroom.

The term EAL is applied to a diverse range of students, from those who are second/third generation migrants who are exposed to an additional language at home, to pupils who speak very little, to no, English and may have migrated to Britain quite recently (Strand et al.,2015). The educational needs of these pupils are further complicated by the wide range of languages and literacy backgrounds (Angelo, 2013).

Due to the wide range in English language ability that come under the definition of EAL, it is helpful to divide this category to ensure EAL learners are given the same opportunity as FLE (first language English) students. Demie and Strand (2006) have broken this down into four stages, based on Hester’s Stages of English (1990):

Stage 1: New to English

Stage 2: Becoming familiar with English

Stage 3: Becoming confident as user of English

Stage 4: Fully fluent in English

They also determined that the factors that appear to have the most impact on students’ attainment are age and length of time spent in the country.

There has been a nationwide attempt at improving the assessment of EAL learners via the Qualification Assessment Authority (QCA), this would make the assessment consistent and provide specialist and mainstream teachers with the information to test bilingual pupils’ knowledge of English (QCA, 2000).

At the school I currently work in, the number of EAL students is growing with a current percentage of 15.1% of the student population. Due to the increasing numbers, the school is currently in the process of overhauling the way in which we assess and teach EAL learners. This has involved the assessment of fluency of all the pupils recognised as EAL, using a very similar staging process to Demie & Strand (2008).

This assessment has been carried out by the SEND (special educational needs and disabilities) department who have looked at every EAL pupils reading, writing, speaking and listening skills. This information has been recently compiled and made available to the teaching staff, along with personalised information about each pupil – including some strategies that work well for them.

As a trainee Science teacher, I do not believe I currently possess the teaching experience and knowledge to teach EAL learners in a way that will ensure they make a much progress as the FLE students I teach. This is a challenge that NQT’s (newly qualified teachers) have also stated as an area of concern, in a survey conducted by the TDA (2008), only 37% said that they felt adequately trained to teach EAL students.

Whilst I have come across a few strategies through talking to experienced teachers, and have received some basic training, I do not feel confident with subject specific strategies that could help excel the learning of EAL students in my classes.

Through my research for this blog I have found some very good resources and information that I plan to adapt and implement in my lessons.

The website for the National Subject Association for EAL ( contains a lot of information about how to help EAL learners in the classroom, this advice extends to subject specific strategies.

Specific language issues that arise in science include vocabulary related, this can be split into three categories: names of objects, processes and concepts. Part of the problem that can cause confusion is the use of words with different meanings when used in different contexts, e.g. cell – within biology and physics have different meanings, but also have a different meaning when meant as a prison (Vazquez, Unknown).

To assist pupils with this confusing vocabulary, one method is to provide EAL pupils with a list of keywords for a unit with both a pronunciation and definition alongside. This is laid out as a table, in alphabetical order and are students encouraged to add to it as the unit is taught (DfES, 2002).

Developing pupils’ knowledge through modelling and the use of analogies is common practice in science, this is a method used for all students to describe abstract ideas. This is also of great benefit to EAL students who will be learning from visual aids more as their vocabulary develops (DfES, 2002).

After reading more from the Key Stage 3 National Strategy Access and engagement in science (DfES, 2002) I have chosen several strategies that I would like to focus on and explore further within my own practice. The strategies chosen are taken each from their suggestions for starters, main activities and plenaries.


  • Word games to reinforce key vocabulary.
  • Allow EAL pupils time before responding to questions.


  • Set explicit listening tasks.
  • Provide instructions and information in ways that combine visual presentation and short text.


  • Use of sentence starters for pupils to summarise and record what they have learnt.
  • Encourage pupils who are learning EAL to present their work/talk about what they have learnt in the lesson.

By selecting a small number of strategies to begin with, I hope to set routines with classes containing EAL pupils and make these activities regular and normal for the pupils. Once these activities are in place, I believe that is when they will be most effective and then it will be possible to introduce further strategies and techniques.


Angelo, D. (2013) Steps for encouraging early independent writing: a language perspective on whole-class literacy learning inclusive of EAL/D learners. Practically Primary, vol. 18, no. 2, pp. 11-15.

Demie, F. and Strand, S., (2006) English language acquisition and educational attainment at the end of secondary school. Educational Studies, vol. 32, no. 2, pp.215-231.

Department for Education (2016) Schools, pupils and their characteristics: January 2016 National Statistics.

DfES (2002) Key Stage 3 National Strategy. Access and engagement in science. Teaching pupils for whom English is an additional language. DfES 0610/2002

Davies, N. (2010) The teaching and learning of EAL and bilingual pupils [pdf] Available at: [Accessed 17 April 2017)

Hester, H. (1990) The Stages of English. Patterns of Learning. London: CLPE.

Strand, S., Malmberg, L. & Hall, J. (2015) English as an Additional Language (EAL) and educational achievement in England: An analysis of the National Pupil Database [pdf] Available at: [Accessed 17 April 2017].

Training and Development Agency for Schools (2008) Results of the newly qualified teacher survey 2008. TDA: London. Available at: [Accessed 18 April 2017].

QCA (2000) A language in common: assessing English as additional language. London: QCA.

Vazquez, M. (Unknown) Subject specific information – science and EAL [pdf] Available at: [Accessed 18 April 2017].



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