Greater accountability for funding for pupils with English as an additional language.
British Council EAL & Language Support
“EAL learners are likely to be under-identified in terms of dyslexia and over-represented in terms of speech and language difficulties.”
Identifying EAL Students
‘Super-diverse’ is now a concept intended to highlight a level of complexity never before experienced in the UK, and poses significant challenges for many of the nation’s early years settings, schools and colleges. Despite years of working with children arriving from many different cultures and speaking an ever increasing variety of languages, the question still remains: are teachers equipped with the knowledge and understanding to identify needs accurately and provide appropriate differentiation?
Has the time now arrived when all teachers and teaching assistants, whether newly qualified or experienced, should have basic awareness of both the process of second language acquisition and early indications of possible learning difficulties?
Late Identification of Specific Learning Difficulties
It is often the case that only when a child is failing to progress, practitioners begin to consider barriers that might actually be coming into play. Could it be a language issue, a possible learning difficulty or a combination of both?
Often guidance given to teachers focuses on separating EAL and SEN and does not address situations where a child is presenting with both.
In the area of reading, for example, despite much being written about identifying and providing for children with reading difficulties, it rarely, if at all, refers to children with EAL. On the contrary, literature on learning to read in a second or third language rarely refers to children with learning difficulties.
Similarly, concern has been raised that the potential and aptitude of higher ability pupils, with or without particular learning needs, may also be being overlooked.
Continued EAL Support Throughout School Life
It is not only recently arrived children who experience such difficulties. As academic and cognitive demands on children increase, so do more sophisticated language challenges. To complicate the matter even further, at this stage, particular learning needs may also begin to become evident.
As very few teachers have received any training around second language acquisition, it is often mistakenly thought that when a child can hold everyday conversations, they can speak English and therefore need no further support in their learning. Often, the complete opposite is the case.
To compound these issues, EAL is often under-identified from a lack of awareness of the definition of the DfE’s definition:
A pupil’s first language is defined as any language other than English that a child was exposed to during early development and continues to be exposed to in the home or community. If a child was exposed to more than one language (which may include English) during early development, a language other than English should be recorded, irrespective of the child’s proficiency in English.