… tell us how you feel about EAL policy and practice.
Naomi Flynn and colleagues from the University of Reading have developed a survey to capture how EAL teachers feel about their work and the broader policies around EAL. In this post she explains the reasons why the survey is important, and asks us all to contribute.
Naomi is a co-opted member of the NALDIC executive and convenes the Berkshire and Hampshire RIG.
The survey can be found here.
Are you a teacher in England, working in Reception to Year 13? If so, then please complete our survey! We are investigating EAL teaching practice and teachers’ engagement with relevant policies concerning their EAL pupils. The survey has been designed by Naomi Flynn and Xiao Lan Curdt-Christiansen from the Institute of Education, University of Reading.
A survey to examine teachers’ beliefs and practices for EAL teaching is especially important as we move into uncertain times for EAL. Funding is increasingly scarce, attitudes to migration are hardening, and there is a lack of clearly articulated policy for EAL teaching and learning. Our project, which also involves analysis of EAL policy documentation, will help us to learn more about the decisions teachers make to support their EAL learners, and whether this relates to national and/or local policy for EAL.
Why is this survey important now?
For a decade or more, policy priorities have not kept up with the changing demographics of our classrooms. For example, between 2005 and 2009 guidance was published for the teaching of EAL learners that reflected the aims and content of the then current National Curriculum in England (e.g. DfES 2007). This documentation was arguably symbolic of a commitment to language policy that acknowledged a changing linguistic landscape in schools, but it was not mandatory and there is some evidence that it was not widely read by practitioners (Flynn 2012). After 2010, the changing political agenda led to a reduction in funding and in explicit language policy or guidance aimed at supporting teachers of EAL learners; this despite an increasing number of children with EAL in both primary and secondary schools (Strand, Malmberg & Hall 2015).
Alongside this shift in policy, the approach to teaching English also changed profoundly. The most noticeable effect has been the accelerating expectations for spelling and grammar that challenge even monolingual, British-born children. Current policy restricts how the curriculum might be adapted for teaching EAL learners to the broad aspiration that teachers ‘should plan teaching opportunities to help pupils develop their English and should aim to provide the support pupils need to take part in all subjects’ (DfE 2013). Implicit in this statement is an assumption that teachers just know what to do, while evidence from research suggests that this is not the case for everyone in the profession and that EAL-related CPD is limited (Anderson et al. 2016).
A gap in the policy around EAL
Thus, the curriculum for English (and the accompanying assessments) is framed for monolingual English-L1 speakers. Very limited attention is given to how pedagogy for EAL learners might differ. In this respect there is a mismatch between the aspirations of education policy and the needs of EAL learners. A recent attempt to address this, in the introduction of the DfE Stages of Proficiency in English as a measure of EAL learners’ developing competence in English, was implemented with unclear intentions for its long-term use or application [see the detailed analysis in issue two of the EAL Journal]. Moreover, the newly published Rochford Review on assessment of children with additional needs recommends that there is still work to do in understanding how schools might be best supported in making accurate assessments of their EAL learners’ needs and potential.
While there is a growing body of work from different countries investigating language policy issues related to migrant children, there are relatively few studies in the UK that focus on how explicit or implicit government/institutional policies shape teachers’ perceptions and practices of teaching EAL learners. There is an urgent need – especially in this current period of uncertainty – to capture what teachers believe, what they do and how they respond to EAL policy at national as well as local level.
We hope that the research will produce valuable information for teachers and teacher-trainers, school leaders, researchers and policy makers, who are seeking evidence to help them shape new policy and practical guidance for EAL teaching.
To take part in the survey go to https://www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/ZNDVWYV
Anderson, Charles, Yvonne Foley, Pauline Sangster, Viv Edwards & Naz Rassool (2016). Policy, Pedagogy and Pupil Perceptions: EAL in Scotland and England. Cambridge: University of Edinburgh and The Bell Foundation. See our post, with link to full versions, here.
DfE (2013). National Curriculum in England: English programmes of study. Available online here.
Flynn, Naomi (2012). New arrivals, new challenges : the experiences of primary school teachers managing the English language acquisition of Polish children. Unpublished PhD thesis. University of Winchester. Available online here.
Strand, Steve, Lars Malmberg, & Hall, J. (2015). English as an Additional Language (EAL) and educational achievement in England: An analysis of the National Pupil Database. Oxford: University of Oxford Department of Education. See our post, with link to full versions, here.
The EAL Journal is published termly by NALDIC, the subject association for EAL. Visit www.naldic.org.uk to become a member.