Supporting advanced learners of English as an additional language (EAL)

Identifying advanced learners of EAL

An Ofsted research into writing at KS2 and KS4 shows a mismatch between oral and written fluency:

Advanced EAL learners are defined as pupils who have had all or most of their school education in the UK and whose oral proficiency in English is usually indistinguishable from that of pupils with English as a first language but whose writing may still show distinctive features related to their language background.

This short animation gives a useful introduction to this often over-looked group of learners for whom English is an additional language. It identifies some ways in which schools can support them in their journey to full proficiency in their use of English across the curriculum.

Possible prior attainment characteristics of this group of EAL learners

These students may be :

  • just achieving ARE at KS2. They may struggle to achieve ARE by the end of KS3. Thus they are unlikely to achieve 5+ Grades 9-5 including mathematics and English at KS4
  • achieving ARE in mathematics and science but not in English at KS2. They could be able pupils, but may struggle with the language demands of a secondary curriculum
  • attaining ARE+ at the end of KS2 but making little or no progress by the end of KS3
  • late arrivals whose lack of experience in English reduced KS2 results.  Often securely literate in their first language, they may make rapid progress
Why we focus on this group

New arrivals only form 5 to 10% of the EAL population of England.

The remaining 90–95% are far more likely than the new arrivals to be able to achieve the benchmarks of:

  • ARE at Key Stage 3
  • 5+ Grade 9-5 GCSEs (including English and mathematics) at Key Stage 4
Support strategies

The National Strategies resource “Ensuring the attainment of more advanced learners of English as an additional language” (2009) contains useful advice on a range of activities and approaches. 

These approaches benefit both advanced EAL learners and monolingual English-speaking pupils alike. Resulting in increased engagement in lessons, improved use of the more formal register required for academic writing and a better knowledge of a range of genres. Although the resource has a secondary focus, much of it is equally suitable for pupils at Key Stage 2. EMTAS Specialist Teacher Advisers have developed training for both primary phase teachers and secondary practitioners. 

Feedback from pupils and schools where EMTAS Advanced EAL Learner sessions have been delivered

Following a short series of inputs in a secondary school, school-based staff identified the following benefits to their students

  • model answers showing the difference between a 5 and a grade 9 at GCSE were explicitly taught
  • the characteristics of a good answer were clearly identified
  • strategies to support students’ understanding of text in spite of difficult words were shared and discussed
  • students were supported to find their own words to use in their answers
  • the students learnt some useful new words such as 'incentive' 'drastic' and 'proactive' which none of them knew before the session
Learning materials