There are over one and a half million children in UK schools whose first language is not English, speaking in excess of 360 languages. Effectively monitoring and supporting these students is a challenge and the quality of data available on them is mixed, not necessarily providing an accurate picture.
The latest school census requires schools to provide additional information on EAL learners – an assessment of their English proficiency against a five point scale, the pupil’s country of birth and their nationality.
This data will help differentiate between those pupils who lack a basic command of English versus those who are fully bilingual, allowing for more effective and efficient support.
Challenges for schools
If your school has a significant number of EAL learners, collecting and preparing for these changes could be time consuming and will require planning.
Teachers will need support and training to measure English proficiency consistently and make accurate judgements. School data systems may need updating to reflect the new codes for ethnicity and language, and methods of collecting country of birth and nationality data will need reviewing.
A school’s response
Gathering accurate data to complete the Autumn census has been a challenge for one particular inner city school. More than half of their students have English as an additional language – 5% are at early stages of learning English and 95% are more advanced - with over 60 languages spoken in total.
Tribal are supporting them to meet the census deadlines in November and February, improving monitoring of their EAL learners and planning ongoing support to improve proficiency levels over time.
Specific actions have included:
- Reworking admissions forms, ensuring their current EAL register is accurate and aligning the schools EAL assessment scale with the new DfE proficiency stages.
- Providing training for staff on the school census changes and English proficiency assessments, addressing difficulties in interpreting broad descriptors, so that the assessments can be carried out accurately and consistently.
- Analysing data to provide an overview across year groups and identifying any correlation between EAL assessments and English grades.
- Developing tips for teaching students at different stages of English proficiency so that they are able to access the curriculum and develop additional language skills within the classroom.
It’s hoped that the improved data and increased commitment to the support of EAL learners across the whole school will lead to improved EAL proficiency levels and reduce attainment gaps.
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