EAL Learners

Including all learners – Pupils with English as an Additional Language (EAL)


This webpage will look at EAL in the context of the school environment and beyond. It will look at particular issues involved with including EAL students in the classroom and a list of suggested resources that can enable the student teacher to develop their own inclusive practice.


From the outset I think it is worthwhile to establish the difference between some of the different acronyms there are for terms used when dealing with children learning English as an additional language. There is English as an Additional Language (EAL), English as a Second Language (ESL), English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) and English as a Foreign Language (EFL). Fundamentally they all mean the same (or very similar) thing, which is English as a new language. Different acronyms are used in different situations e.g. EFL – English as a foreign language – where it is not the native language of the country in which it is being taught. We currently use EAL in our schools. Some resources I may refer to indicate their use for one of the other acronyms, but are entirely transferable.

Including EAL Learners

It states in the Teachers’ Standards to “set goals that stretch and challenge pupils of all backgrounds, abilities and dispositions” and also to “Adapt teaching to respond to the strengths and needs of all pupils”. Inclusion of EAL students has never been more relevant than in the modern classroom. There needs to be a sharp focus on supporting EAL students effectively in the multicultural society that we live in today.

“…ethnic diversity brings linguistic diversity and in 2008 an estimated 240 languages were spoken in England’s primary and secondary schools.” (Alexander, 2010, p. 113)

It is said that schools are “micro-reflections of local communities” (Richards and Armstrong, 2011, p. 68). It is therefore imperative that EAL students become fully integrated in their schooling to enable them to develop into active and contributing members of our wider society.

Right way


These children are learning another language, as well as other subjects through this new language, so have to work extremely hard. Their native language is also vital to their sense of identity and, as mentioned in the introduction, being multilingual can also be extremely beneficial to their education. Teachers should understand the additional difficulties EAL pupils may face compared to English monolingual students. Actually it has been noted that teachers often see them as slow to pick things up and mistakenly label them with SEND because they lack effective communication skills. This is simply their teachers are not understanding (Alexander, 2010). It is important to distinguish the difference between EAL and SEND. EAL students can often be misplaced in school when they may just be struggling to understand.

“When a child who is learning English as an additional language makes slow progress in school, it is difficult to tell whether the delay is caused because they are not confident using the language of the school or because they have ‘real’ learning difficulties independently of the language difference.” http://www.naldic.org.uk/eal-initial-teacher-education/ite-programmes/eal-sen Accessed 16/11/13

Developing Inclusive Practice

A consistent effort needs to be made by all teachers to ensure their schools and classrooms are fully inclusive to all and this means understanding EAL students. It is not just the UK that is struggling with this challenge, it is also a worldwide issue. This needs to be remedied to enable EAL students to achieve their full potential.

“Around the world children from economically disadvantaged backgrounds and children from ethnic minorities are underrepresented among those recognised as gifted and talented.” (Richards and Armstrong, 2011, p. 106)

Teachers must then strive to support EAL students within their class to the best of their ability. They must take it upon themselves to develop as fully inclusive professionals. The best way to do that is to firstly educate themselves on the issues there are for EAL students and also to use the resources available to support them and their students. As it says in the Teachers’ Standards we must “have a secure understanding of how a range of factors can inhibit pupils’ ability to learn, and how best to overcome these”.

I have also seen some fantastic work in school by the multilingual teaching assistants. They are also a valuable resource to the classroom. They work with EAL students on a regular basis seeking to further embed new learning and support them with new current language being learnt. All this is done with minimum interruption to the child’s school day, ensuring they are still fully included in class activities. They work alongside them in or outside of the class in small groups or on a one-to-one basis.

There are a huge variety of resources available to educate and help teachers to include EAL learners in the classroom. I have provided links to videos, lesson plans, games and a variety of strategies to support developing professionals below:


–          Here is a Youtube video that looks at the new modern day classroom and explains the support put in place to ensure successful inclusion of EAL learners:

–          This is another video that shows some fantastic teaching strategies for EAL students that involves the whole class. In the video they also talk about the importance of distinguishing between EAL and SEND:

–          Another interesting and funny video I have found on EAL which puts you in the position of an EAL learner.

–          This video looks at scaffolding learning to effectively support EAL students.

–          This is a link to a website with some fantastic information on strategies to fully include EAL students. www.eal-teaching-strategies.com/index.html

–          No matter where the children are from, in my experience, they all seem to enjoy using computers. This is a link to some free online EAL (ESL) games:


–          The following link includes a variety of interactive games for EAL Primary children to play in the classroom. They would be good for communication and group work skills, which would help develop comprehension and improve literacy skills: http://iteslj.org/c/games.html

–          A useful pack to primary teachers which includes information on a variety of guided sessions can be found at: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/learning-and-teaching-for-bilingual-children-in-the-primary-years-guided-sessions-to-support-writing-english-as-an-additional-language

Two more links for very useful information for EAL learners:

–          http://www.naldic.org.uk/

–          http://www.education.gov.uk/schools/pupilsupport/inclusionandlearnersupport/eal


http://www.slideshare.net/chrishooper/the-differences-between-efl-esol-and-eal (Accessed 14/11/13)

http://blog.about-esl.com/difference-between-esl-efl/ (Accessed 14/11/13)

http://www.naldic.org.uk/ (Accessed 14/11/13)

Richards, G.  and Armstrong, F. (2011) Teaching and Learning in Diverse and Inclusive Classrooms, Abingdon: Routledge.

Alexander, R. (2010) Children, their World, their Education Final report and recommendations of the Cambridge Primary Review, Abingdon: Routledge.

Teachers Standards’ (Revised 2013)

http://londonmentors.net/secprofst2005/webfiles/inclusionEAL.htm (Accessed 18/11/13)

http://www.northumberland.gov.uk/default.aspx?page=9659 (Accessed 19/11/13)


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