Middle leaders need to analyse different types of students’ data regularly, in order to identify students who need extra support. The groups are generally separated into students who are exceeding their targets, on their targets, working towards their targets and below their targets.
As Head of EAL it is also quite significant for me to understand EAL students’ school cultures in their countries and help them adjust to the British School System.
In my research I wanted to look into why some of these students do not make accelerated progress and how we can motivate them to achieve more.
I would like to call them ‘Invisible EAL students. The term ‘Invisible EAL students’ comes from the book ‘The Invisible Child’ that is written by J. Lee, D. Buckland and G. Shaw. They describe ‘The Invisible Child’ as
“… one who is unexceptional in identifiable characteristics such as attainment, ability, learning behaviour, attendance and social behaviour. An invisible child does not demand or attract special attention or consideration from the teacher, apparently working conscientiously and, in main, achieving standards of attainment which are noticeably high or low.” (Lee, Buckland, Shaw 1998, p 6)
I want to investigate how subject teachers and EAL department can help these students better, so that they progress and achieve, even exceed their targets.
My findings will help to improve my own practise when teaching these groups as well. My aim is based on my findings, to collaborate with other teachers and help them to plan their lessons more effectively.
Information about the school
At present out of 890 students 344 of them are EAL. That would make approximately 39%. 65 of them are EAL beginners (Step 1 - 4) and rest of them are intermediate to advanced bilinguals. We have around 43 languages spoken in our school. The most spoken languages are Yoruba, French, Spanish, Turkish and Portuguese. Recently we have more students coming from the EU countries such as Romania, Bulgaria and Poland.
How EAL department works
EAL team are present in the initial interviews in order to get to know new arrivals better. Majority of our students start on Tuesday the week after the interview. We spend 2 hours with the student to make sure that s/he has timetable, planner, equipment and we do the initial assessment. Hounslow’s REAL assessment papers are used to determine students’ level of English.
If students have Step 2 or below, we put them in our 12 weeks long KS3 EAL Induction Programme. This programme was developed by us 6 years ago with the help of Sofia Ali. It aims to teach basics in 12 subjects; London Unit, English, Maths, Science, Geography, History, PSHE, D&T, RE, PE, Art and Music. These lessons are 2 hours per week.
In year 10 students who are Step 2 or below join EAL option groups which are 3 hours per week, additionally they attend KS3 EAL Induction Programme to accelerate their level of English. They are still supported in core subjects; mainly in English and Maths.
The rest of the time students attend their classes according to their timetable and we continue to support them mainly in their core subjects; English, Maths and Science. The KS3 EAL 12 subject induction programme takes the students’ prior learning into account and designed to guide them into subject language intensively and as fast and effectively as possible.
Rationale of this type of teaching is for the students to achieve specific subject related academic language as a way of speeding up their progress towards what Cummins calls Cognitive Academic Language Proficiency (CALP).
When learning a new language Cummins explains that most EAL students develop BICS (Basic Interpersonal Communication Skills) before they can develop CALP (Cognitive Academic Language Proficiency). Generally speaking, children learning an additional language can become conversationally fluent in the new language in 2-3 years but may take 5 years or longer to catch up with monolingual peers on the development of CALP. However, this process could be accelerated with the appropriate teaching and learning strategies which include and integrate their previous knowledge of literacy in first language.
EAL students may also have different levels of home and community expectations and understanding of the education system and various support structures for learning and language development at home and at school. These factors are also important for progress.
Learners will be affected by attitudes to them, their culture, language and religion, ethnicity within and beyond the school and in the wider world. Learners’ social and cultural experiences will impact on their progress in language acquisition as well as on their cognitive and academic development. Baker points out that gaining belief, respect and social value from dialogue with others is not straightforward as there is unequal dominance, status and power in relationships. (Baker. C, 2006:137)
Jim Cummins also states that, the emotional significance of learning a new language in “subtractive” rather than “additive” circumstances is hard to overemphasise. If a child is a visitor of a country, language learning experience may be a very positive one which enhances his/her cultural heritage by adding another language to the first one. However, immigrants may not have the same positive experience when learning the new language.
Gibbons stresses that it requires more linguistic skills to use language for academic purposes than it does to use it in everyday conversation (Gibbons P.2002:1) Gibbons also points out that the EAL learners will have experienced a wide range of contexts in which they have learned to use their mother tongue, but a much more restricted range of contexts in English. (Gibbons, P2002: 5). If we dismiss this experience in first language and do not give them a focused English language support, they may easily fall behind compare to the native English speakers.