Including All Learners: Children with EAL

Inclusion in regards to EAL

Inclusion in regards to EAL (English as an Additional Language) is ever poignant in modern Britain. We are a vastly multi-cultural society; The Department of Education states 17.5 percent of our schools’ children have EAL, London itself encompassing 270 different nationalities and 300 languages according to an article from 2011 by the Evening Standard.

This just highlights the importance of inclusion, and stresses the need for teachers to be able have the confidence in their schools strategies in order to assimilate the vast array of cultures that make up their respective classes.

So how is it done? How do we ensure our education system is accessible to those whose native tongue is not English?

What is EAL?

EAL is defined by the National Association for Language Development In the Curriculum as a term that is “used to describe the learning of English in addition to the learner’s first language. The two terms are interchangeable. However, in England the term ‘English as an additional language’ or ‘EAL’ is generally used to refer to learning English in an English speaking environment, such as a school. This was deemed a more neutral term and it also recognises that, for some learners, English may be their third or fourth language.” From this comprehensive definition we can construe that inclusion in regards to EAL is ensuring those whose native language is not English, are not excluded from any aspect of school life, whether that’s the curriculum, or the wider school communal life.

Why is inclusion important?

  • It allows all children, regardless of their English speaking, or comprehension, the same opportunity to reach their potential not only as learners but as people.
  • Enable the parents of pupils to be involved in their children’s school life, and be part of the wider school community.
  • Set an example of accepting varied cultures and belief systems.
  • Allow children to grow up in the company of, and forge friendships with those that differ to them, in whatever way that may be.

These are just some of the key goals that can be achieved through inclusion, and absolutely represent what are seen as modern British values.

What can happen if inclusion is neglected?

Low self esteem is a definite by-product of not being able to converse effectively with those around you, either in comprehension or speech, and if there is a lack of effort to include. Isolation is something that will dent a child’s confidence, particularly as it’s not solitary but through a lack of understanding of the language and culture they find themselves immersed in. It’s naïve to think a child who is EAL should have to or be able to switch to solely speaking English. Their language is not only part of who they are but if they are not fluent in English, it is their only outlet of truly expressing themselves. Stifling this will only damage the child’s confidence as well as their long term education.

Stunted academic progression is also a negative factor of ignoring the need for inclusion. It could quite easily be the case that a ten year old child with EAL is able to work at a level 5 in literacy in their native tongue, however, only at a level 1 or 2 in English. The ramifications of letting this child only work at a level 1 or 2 in their long term progression could be highly detrimental

So how do we stop this from happening? What strategies can we implement?

According to a University of Brighton source, entitled “Aiming High: Meeting the  needs of newly arrived  learners of English as an additional language”, some key strategies in combating new arrivals with EAL include tactics as simple as ensuring the pupil knows the teacher’s name,  as well as ensuring they are aware of basic instructions (e.g. getting books out, sitting down) and getting them involved as an integral part of the class, possibly assigning them a class role, such as handing out books. To install confidence their English shouldn’t be corrected initially, rather allowing them to gain confidence in themselves before helping them to improve.

Making sure the pupil is aware of the key words and terms in tasks is important as well in their development of understanding the language and helping them get on task by understanding learning objectives.

Having spoken to a teacher at my school, Rachel Hassan, who is experienced in teaching those with EAL, she also pointed out one extra idea that I found particularly interesting and practical. She claimed the tactics used with those English born children, learning the basics of the language, include using pictures. With all previous EAL students she has used pictures with almost everything in order to help them understand. When explaining tasks she would use photos with the corresponding words, and claims this was a successful approach. As their English improved there were pictures with more difficult words, until these picture dictionary’s were no longer needed. Attached is a very useful teaching resource from TES, and is an example of a picture dictionary that could be given to EAL students.

According to the Department for Children, Schools and Families, the curriculum needs to be modified where teacher’s see fit. This will provide those children who are EAL a chance to understand the learning objectives within the national curriculum, particularly a provision for these children to be able to practice their English language skills with others, , because they might not necessarily be able to study at the same pace as native English speakers.

EAL inclusion doesn’t just come from the teaching staff however. An inclusive culture can be implemented throughout the school and live through the pupils themselves. If there is a class with a large number of eal pupils then there is the opportunity to have weeks where there is a class project focussed on the culture of a particular pupils’ culture and background. Not only does this help classmates understand one another better but it can also help integrate EAL pupils into classes by making them the centre of attention for a week, in an environment where they otherwise may find it easier to fade in to the background.

Below is a video about a school in London and the strategies they have employed regarding including EAL pupils.

Firstly the school has entrance interviews with the parents to gauge the levels of education the child has received already and the levels which they are working at. There is no point using very basic English learning strategies if the child’s grasp of the English language is higher than this level, and of course there’s if a child cannot speak any English whatsoever, it is futile giving them tasks which require some understanding of the English language.

Secondly, around the class are a wide variety of foreign language words, even on the days of the week that are stuck up above the board at the front of the class. EAL children are being surrounded by this language they are trying to learn, anywhere they turn in their classroom there is an opportunity to learn. There are also individual teaching assistant’s whose job it is to fully understand the eal pupil and help them assimilate to the British education system. This one to one support will ensure the school stays on top of the child’s progress.

On this web resource I have identified a number of strategies that can be implemented in the teaching of EAL pupils, with a number of tactics for children whose grasp of the English language is varied. I have also highlighted just a few of the negative implications a failure to employ such strategies could incur. Below are a number of helpful websites and resources I have used throughout this piece that you may find helpful.


  • Cartwright, E., 2013 Supporting EAL Children, [e-journal] pp. 28 Available through Primary Teacher Update, magonlinelibrary [Accessed 25 November 2014]

  •, “Developing Quality Tuition: Effective Practice in Schools”, 2011.

InclusionBC, What is Inclusive Education, 2012

  • Naldic, A culturally Inclusive Curriculum, 2006

  •  Spencer. V, How do we Effectively Meet the Needs of Children with EAL in the Classroom, 2013

  •  TES, Picture Dictionary for EAL Pupils, 2014.

Video Resource

  •  Teachers TV, Engaging Pupils Learning EAL, 2013.


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