Author: Sarah Jones, EAL Coordinator, Lea Forest Academy
In September 2015, Lea Forest Academy took on an additional class of 16 Year 2 newly arrived EAL children. Eight of these children had never been schooled, while eight had had some schooling experience in their home country. The school had no specific EAL provision in place or trained staff.
What did they do?
Where did they start?
The cohort’s learning journey began in 2015, when they were merged into a class of 14 native-English-speaking children. The hope was that full immersion in an English-speaking environment would allow them to learn the survival language they needed. Over the course of that year, the children were assessed against the DFE EAL standards and lessons were loosely differentiated to try to accommodate their needs, with a lot of simple matching activities. The children learnt the basic survival language they needed, but academically, they were falling significantly below their peers.
At the beginning of the next academic year, five of the children moved on, leaving 11. Now in Year 3, the children continued to be taught alongside their native-speaking cohort. However, as time went on, concerns about progress, attainment and how the children’s needs were being met began to grow, with these pupils falling further behind.
A new EAL lead was assigned and an EAL action plan was put in place to establish and embed EAL provision at Lea Forest. The EAL lead attended training provided by Across Cultures to ensure that a reflective whole-school approach was developed. The school used a Template for reflection on provision (see resource accompanying this article) termly, in order to reflect on the provision and keep it progressive.
EAL registers and a whole-school assessment were initiated, using NASSEA descriptors to identify all EAL children and their English needs. Schemes and provisions, including the Learning Village, were reviewed and selected for suitability. With a firm knowledge of the children’s needs, interventions were put in place, with the children strategically grouped, based on their English needs.
Groups attended two intervention sessions a week, for one hour in the afternoon. During these interventions, Learning Village sessions were taken off the screen and skills were taught, practised and applied using flashcards, number cards and writing prompts. The Learning Village sessions were then used on screen, for the children to consolidate and assess their learning. In addition, the eight children who failed their phonics screening test in Year 2 attended additional phonics sessions in the mornings, using the programme ‘Phonics Bug’ by Active Learn. By the end of the year, all of the eight children had passed their phonics test. All of the children had also made some progress on the NASSEA EAL continuum, but more still needed to be done to cater for their diverse learning needs.
By the time the children were in Year 4 (2017), the intake of newly arrived pupils had increased dramatically. A decision was made to establish an ‘EAL Hub’, where newly arrived EAL children would attend literacy and Learning Village interventions during Literacy time. For all other lessons, the children stayed in class, where they worked alongside their peers or in small groups with a TA. During mainstream lessons, imaged or/and tactile resources were provided, with a learning objective based on vocabulary and a sentence structure. The resource packs on the Across Cultures website proved an amazing resource for learning, providing instant, high-quality materials to support and scaffold the children’s learning. The Learning Village’s Sentence Analyser was another highly successful resource: this allowed the children to understand the meaning of words and to manipulate sentences to deepen their knowledge of morphology. Staff were also able to customise the school’s curriculum through the Learning Village, so that the children could learn topical vocabulary and concepts in order to access lexical content.
Our intent was for all our EAL children to be performing alongside their peers by the time they reached Year 6. The underlying implication was the need to cater for the children’s education needs through a specialised and personalised curriculum, allowing them to learn the skills required to work alongside their English-speaking peers and be integrated back into class-based Literacy sessions. The impact was extremely positive – all the children from this initial large group made accelerated progress through the NASSEA continuum and began to access National Curriculum objectives more easily. At the end of Year 4, six out of the 11 children were fully integrated back into class, where they continued to perform (or excel) at the national standard.
At the start of the next academic year (2018), when the children were in Year 5, four more left, leaving just seven. Over the following months, all but three of the children continued to make good progress in all subjects and were integrated back into class; however, the remaining three were a growing concern. In the previous year, these children had been monitored for SEND. After working closely with the SEND team and outside agencies, they were diagnosed as having a SEND need as well as an EAL need.
The SEND and EAL leads produced individual target plans (ITPs) for the children. The children were given two targets, one based on their SEND need and the other a language target for their EAL need. The children attended several interventions a week with professional therapists (art, drama, speech and language), as well as being supported in class by their TA or the EAL TA. What we found helped these children the most was teaching learning strategies, like memory skills, and providing a personalised curriculum through the Learning Village, alongside using a selection of suitable resources that allowed them to become more independent learners and take some ownership of their language journey.
We started with 16 ‘bulge’ children and had only seven remaining with us for their final year. Four out of the seven went on to perform at a greater depth; the other three, who were diagnosed with a SEND need, were worked with closely, with strategies designed to help overcome their diverse learning needs and reduce the language barrier, so that they could continue their English journey through Hub literacy, class-based lessons and SEND/EAL interventions.
Our journey began slowly and blindly, but eventually blossomed and flourished, through the embedding of EAL provision and the identification of EAL intent, implications and impact, allowing us to strengthen our weaknesses.