How well do we seek to understand the needs of our children with English as an additional language (EAL) arriving from a multitude of countries and cultures?
The Rights of Every Child in the UK
As with many other European countries, the UK has recently experienced the arrival of a vast number of children from all over the world in a relatively short period of time. This undoubtedly has provided considerable challenges for the UK education system. However, Articles 28 and 29 of the United Nations Convention on the rights of the child clearly brings into focus the right of each and every child to access a quality education. The UK government has agreed that:
“The education of the child shall be directed to; … the development of the child’s personality, talents and mental and physical abilities to their fullest potential.”
The question therefore must be asked: “How can we support a child in reaching his or her potential when we have little or no understanding of their strengths or difficulties? Isn’t elicitation a key part of the education process?”
How do you know what your child already knows?
The importance of assessing the language proficiencies of multilingual children accurately is crucial in the learning process. Appropriate high quality assessment can reveal vital information for informing teaching and learning.
In the absence of a ‘gold standard’ for EAL assessment, children must be assessed in a manner that will make sense to teachers and pupils in a particular context. Used effectively, it will ultimately result in the pupil experiencing both appropriate and challenging learning experiences and consequently, ensure that they have the best possible opportunities to reach their potential in all areas of the curriculum.
Is there really a need to assess children in their first language(s)?
Absolutely, yes. A good first language(s) assessment can provide invaluable information about a pupil’s prior educational experiences and academic achievement.
Conducted by a practitioner with both an understanding of second language acquisition and a good knowledge of child development, the assessment can be vital in providing schools with accurate identification of both language and learning needs. Obtaining information and an understanding of a pupil’s early and recent life experiences, can undoubtedly, support schools in providing the right intervention at the right time, and inform strategies to promote parental engagement.
The First Language Assessment is designed to ensure that pupils can show not only what they can do in their first language but also involves opportunities for them to demonstrate their thinking around, and understanding of, concepts included in worldwide curricula.
Never before has the need been so great for teachers with substantial experience in first language assessment to share expertise and provide professional support for schools.