Helping Your EAL Child Get the Most from Their Education
EAL (English as an Additional Language) students in primary and secondary schools may face extra challenges when starting their education in the UK. As a parent of an EAL pupil, you will be eager for your child to achieve their full potential.
This guide covers the issues surrounding how both parents and schools can help EAL pupils to get the most from their education.
Parents: How You Can Help Your Child
As a parent of an EAL pupil, you may be unsure of the role you can play in helping them with their schoolwork, especially if your own level of English is not fluent. However, there are many ways that you can help, and here are some of the most important:
Start by finding out more about the education system in the UK in general as well as the system at your child’s school. Get information from the school, and arrange a meeting with a member of staff so that they can answer your questions. By acquainting yourself better with the National Curriculum, the education system and exams, you can help your child more effectively.
Don’t assume that you must speak English when helping your child with their homework. Speak in the language that is most comfortable for you, and this way your child will grasp the concepts and ideas behind the topics more effectively. Speaking your strongest language at home is important because it will help your child to develop the language skills needed for their age, and you can then encourage them to speak English outside the home.
Get involved in your child’s learning by doing activities together, especially ones that are related to the topics your child is studying, which could involve going on trips to museums or attractions. You could also collect information on the topic being studied in class to provide your child with more assistance.
Reading together is an important habit to get into, especially for children of primary school age. This can be difficult if your own English reading skills are not developed, but it is still important to do. Even if you do not understand all that they read to you, you can ask your child to explain events in the story to test their understanding, and you can discuss issues in your own language. Where possible, read versions of the books in your own language so that you have a better understanding of the text.
Try to encourage friendships with children who speak your first language as well as children who speak English. That way your child gets access to both languages when socialising with children their own age.
Always get help and support from the school if you need it. This could involve asking your child’s teachers for suggestions on how you can help your child. If there are specialist EAL teachers at the school, you can ask them for their advice and recommendations.
Most of all, try to show an interest in your child’s learning. Ask them to tell you about what they are learning as well as the things that interest them at school, and give them praise for demonstrating their new skills.
Schools: Providing Support for EAL Pupils
Schools can do many things to ensure EAL pupils integrate effectively into class activities. Just because your child’s English is not fluent, the school should understand that their potential to learn is just as great. There are many ways that your child can be supported in school, and you can look for these when choosing a school.
It is important that all languages are valued and promoted in the classroom. You can get a sense of whether this is the case through looking for such things as wall displays, maps, resources and toys that reflect the different cultures and diversity of the pupils. This could include items such as books, toys and newspapers from different countries to ensure that the cultures are celebrated as much as possible.
Language can be used in context in the form of role play and acting out everyday activities. Interactive teaching activities often provide a way to make the learning experience more memorable for pupils.
The use of visuals is important in classrooms where many pupils are not fluent in English. The classroom should be a highly visual environment where images, photos, illustrations, puppets and other items can be used to provide visual clues to enhance meaning and help learners to make more sense of the information they are given.
Some schools may have bilingual support staff to provide extra support to the EAL pupils, especially for particular activities. Find out whether any practitioners at the school have received EAL training, and also whether interpreter services may be provided, such as for parent-teacher meetings.
If your child is completely new to English, there may be special classes for English teaching, either part-time or full-time, until they grow in confidence. The school may provide further support in the classroom after this.
Most of all, you should feel welcome in the school as a parent. Schools can involve parents in many ways, perhaps through the use of workshops for parents to help them learn about school issues. You may even be able to observe the teaching so you can provide greater assistance to your child with their studies. You could also volunteer your time to contribute to cultural events and introduce new parents to the school.
EAL Pupils Can Thrive
The UK has a large number of EAL pupils in its primary and secondary schools, and both the schools and the parents can help these children to take full advantage of the education system. Find out how your school will support your child, as well as what you can do to assist them with their learning.
Pupils tend to pick up English quickly, especially if they are of primary school age. With the right support and assistance, your child will soon develop their English skills and will thrive at school.
The British Council has a useful section on supporting EAL pupils.
The National Association for Language Development in the Curriculum also provides good advice on supporting EAL pupils.
TES has some useful tips for teaching EAL pupils in the classroom.
Education Scotland provides a detailed section on EAL in primary and secondary schools.