Regional Interest Group Round Up

NALDIC Regional Interest Groups (RIGs) are a great way to get involved with the EAL community in your area. Run by local volunteers, they bring educators together to share and learn about practice, research and advocacy in the field of EAL. In this post Dianne Excell, our National RIGs Coordinator, rounds up what’s been happening RIG-wise, up and down the country so far this year and lets you know what you can look forward to after half term.

Dianne Excell

Dianne Excell

When the Spring 2018 edition of NALDIC’s termly magazine the EAL Journal arrived through your letter box, you would have noticed four pages of RIG reports instead of the usual two. This demonstrates just how vibrant and far reaching our RIGs are getting in addressing the issues that are important in each different region. All twelve of our RIGs met last term, even though some had to be rescheduled due to random snow falls. This shows the determination of our RIG convenors to support EAL children and practitioners come snow or shine! This post highlights some exciting contributions from the Spring term and provides an update on forthcoming RIGs – June will be a very busy month.

Themes and Issues:

Unsurprisingly, assessment of ‘New to English’ pupils continued to be a focus for several RIGs. Notably, teachers in the West Midlands and Yorkshire and the Humber reported on using the Bell Foundation EAL Assessment Framework. Birmingham teachers used a video recording of two pupils to lead a practical session on assessing spoken language. Teachers from a new school in Bradford reported how the framework had been useful in establishing starting points and setting targets for progress. They had trained their staff to use it, and Ofsted had praised the support given to EAL learners by the school and the progress students at all stages of English Proficiency had made.


Several RIGs concentrated on tried and tested classroom strategies for EAL and bilingual learners. A teacher in the East Midlands spoke about the impact that a buddying system based on shared home languages she had set up had had. Kent practitioners shared experiences of using resources designed to meet the needs of diverse EAL learners. An EAL Coordinator in Berkshire and Hampshire shared his school’s philosophy of a curriculum beyond the classroom walls – enabling new arrivals in particular to develop their new language in the context of hands-on experiences. Oxford practitioners were informed about the Young Interpreters Scheme, and research into reading behaviours using eye-tracking methodologies was explained.


Three RIGs focused on reading challenges for EAL learners. In the North East awareness was raised about the challenges of reading tests, whilst in Yorkshire and the Humber a two-weekly programme for guided reading in a primary school was shared and there was a report on how one school had used two commercial reading packages successfully. The North West concentrated on developing the academic writing skills of EAL learners using Pauline Gibbons’ ‘language continuum’ and the Kagan Rally Coaching strategy. Practitioners in the West Midlands learned about working with Roma pupils,whereas working with the parents of EAL and bilingual pupils was a focus in the South West. Some RIGs watched the Pupil Voice videos from NALDIC Conference 25 and discussed the implications for school practice.


Three RIGs discussed the effect of school cuts on EAL provision. Responses indicated a continuing reduction of EAL staff in all contexts throughout the UK, despite high and increasing numbers of EAL pupils nationwide. Many EAL practitioners are being deployed in non-EAL roles or being made redundant, and there is a lack of leadership support for EAL work. This not only has a disproportionate effect on female (often bilingual) employment, it also creates difficulties in making a significant long term impact on teaching and learning and there is evidence that our most vulnerable pupils are in danger of underachieving. One RIG had our youngest ever attendee – two-week old baby Grace came along with her parents who own a language school in Bahrain and have a home in South Yorkshire.

Convenor News:

Tamara Rolfs, our East Midlands Convenor, managed to organise the Spring and Summer East Midlands RIGs to avoid them clashing with the birth of her second baby, Amelie, on 15thFebruary. Tamara is already planning the Summer RIG on June 28thin Nottingham.


Sadly, our South Wales Convenor, Hala Edwards, gave notification that she can no longer continue to convene the RIG owing to ill health. We thank her for her tireless enthusiasm and generosity in starting this RIG and making it such a success.  Altogether, Hala single-handedly organised five RIGs between October 2016 and March 2018. Themes included: supporting refugee pupils, using the Bell foundation EAL Assessment Framework and DfE English Proficiency Codes; the Donaldson Review, which made no mention of EAL pupils; EAL as whole school responsibility, the role of the EAL coordinator in tracking pupil progress, an overview of the languages spoken in Cardiff schools, and examples of good practice in EAL teaching and family engagement. She also had a stall for NALDIC at the Cardiff EAL conference in March. We wish Hala the very best for a speedy recovery.


While filling Hala’s shoes in South Wales will be no mean feat, we are now looking for someone to take up where she left off. If you are interested in getting involved in this important and rewarding aspect of NALDIC’s work, please send an email to and let us know. 


It is important to remember that all RIG conveners are volunteers, freely giving their time, effort and expertise for the benefit of the EAL community. Conveners rely on schools volunteering a space in which to hold the meetings, teachers and academics giving of their time to talk at meetings, and of course, the EAL community to come along to learn from and support each other.  When these things coalesce, RIGs are a wonderful way for our community to come together to make EAL provision in our different regions the best it can be.  You’ll find below the latest news of upcoming RIG events in June. We hope to see you at your nearest meeting soon.

Dates for your Diary:

June 5th: Oxfordshire RIG – Convenor: Hamish Chalmers 4-6pm at Mary Ogilvy Theatre, St. Anne’s College, Woodstock Road, Oxford.

Special screening of ‘Talking Black in America’ – a documentary film exploring speech varieties in the African American Community and their relevance for identity, legacy and education.

June 20thNorth East RIG – Convenors Rashda Salamat and Diane Embley 4–6pm at Fellgate Autistic Base, South Shields.                    

Theme: Refugees and Asylum Seekers in North East

June 21stNorth West – Convenor: Carol Hrynyk 3:30 – 5:30pm at The Dean Trust High School in Ardwik.

Guest speaker: Dr. Anne Margaret Smith – A holistic assessment system for identifying dyslexia or other SpLDs in pupils, whatever their L1.

June 21stYorkshire and the Humber – Convenor: Dianne Excell 4-7pm at Malton Community Primary School

Theme: Writing Challenges for EAL learners.

Guest Speaker: Catharine Driver – Writing in Science/ academic writing

June 23rdKent: – Convenors: Wendy McKenzie-Ingle and Bhupinder Gill 10-12, at Dartford Grammar School for Girls. Theme tbc.

June 27thNorth and Northeast London – Convenor: Sara Green 3:45-5:45pm at Grieg City Academy

Theme: EAL assessment moderation of the new Bell assessment.

Guest speaker: Constant Leung will be helping with a work moderation workshop. Please bring along samples of unsupported writing and recordings of EAL learners’ talking.

June 27th:       Berkshire and Hampshire – Convenor: Naomi Flynn 4:30-6:30pm hosted by Hampshire EMTAS in Basingstoke

Theme: SEND-EAL workshop from Hampshire EMTAS EAL team; Conversation Cards and introduction to the Hampshire EMTAS Excellence Award they are devising for schools

June 27th:       South West – Convenor: Gayle Fletcher 3-5:30pm at Pittville Senior School, Cheltenham. Theme: Tbc

June 28th:        East Midlands – Convenor: Tamara Rolfs  4-6pmat Whitegate Primary and Nursery School, Clifton, Nottingham (NG11 9JQ).

Theme: EAL assessment frameworks to inform the proficiency in English codes and to impact on learning.

June 28th: New RIG Cumbria and Lancashire – Convenors: Catharine Driver and Oksana Afitska 4.30 till 6.30pm at Bowland North Building, Seminar Room 2 , Lancaster University.  

There will be presentations on EAL and Science learning from Catharine and Oksana.


Special Interest Groups (SIGs)

These are new ventures for the NALDIC community and we look forward to seeing them grow.

NALDIC Independent Schools SIG. Currently there are 36 members in this very active  Facebook group discussing policy and practice and issues such as how to ensure that late arrivals achieve the good GCSE pass in English Language which is needed to go on to Sixth form before University. Join this SIG here.

NALDIC SIG for British International Schools Join the Facebook group here.

NALDIC Research SIG is getting underway, convened by Robert Sharples in Edinburgh. Please get in contact if you’d like to know more.

NALDIC SIG for the British Islands is in the planning stages. Please get in contact if you’d like to know more.


If you want to get involved with any of these new ventures, drop us a line.

You don’t have to be a NALDIC member to take part in a RIG or a SIG but do join us at the RIG nearest you and be prepared to be inspired!

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