English as an Additional Language is the term used in schools and refers to the additional support that a specialist EAL teacher will give to children and young people with English as an additional language.
The focus for EAL teachers
The main focus for an EAL teacher is to support children and young people to access the mainstream curriculum, and English language support is a contributing factor to this.
Teachers can be trained to assess English language levels of children and young people with EAL using a list of descriptors of English language level.
The assessment can then help to identify strategies for supporting learning. This support usually involves the EAL teacher and the class teacher working together to plan and prepare lessons and can include joint delivery of lessons.
How this approach differs from adult ESOL
The approach to English language support in schools is different to that taken in adult ESOL because language support in schools is about helping the child to access the mainstream curriculum, using the curriculum as a resource for learning English. In adult ESOL learning, English-language learning is the focus and is determined by the learning goals of the learner.
If you take the example of a young person in secondary school who has recently arrived in Scotland. In their Maths class, they may already know the maths or even be further ahead in terms of knowledge and understanding, they just need to learn how to communicate this in English. EAL is about identifying the support children and young people need to achieve the same curricular goals as their peers.Maria Walker, Head of EAL Services, Glasgow
This example could apply to children who have recently arrived in Scotland and have joined the Scottish education system where they know parts of the curriculum very well.
The ESOL Curriculum Framework recognises the diversity in which English-language learning and support exists and this diversity is united by the qualifications framework.
In schools, the ESOL qualifications are a small component of the learner’s learning. Schools are encouraged to fully immerse children and young people into English classes as opposed to withdrawing them for separate language support sessions, as the mainstream classroom is the best place for them to experience a variety of models of English. An ESOL qualification would only be considered at the point when the young person is preparing for external assessments. This is normally in fourth and fifth year, and only then if ESOL is deemed a more appropriate qualification to meet the young person's needs.
Resources and examples to support EAL in schools
These profiles were created by the City of Edinburgh's EAL Service to help teachers to assess the English-language skills of bilingual children.
The following Journey to Excellence videos provide examples of EAL in schools:
- Support for an international student body: St Andrew's High School
- Overcoming barriers
- Happily ever after: The Village Storytelling Centre.
Further information and support
The Supporting learners section of the Education Scotland website has further information and resources to help practitioners support children and young people with EAL in schools.