Communicating with multilingual families

Mother Tongues and the School of Education at Trinity College Dublin have created video for teachers/principals/administrative staff on communicating with families in different languages – see here – and a list of useful phrases that can be used in schools. This is a project we will continue to work on over the next few months and anyone can request phrases to be translated (see here).

Helping multilingual families support at-home learning

In collaboration with the School of Education at Trinity College, Mother Tongues have produced short videos on how families can support young children with their literacy, numeracy and creativity during the school shut down, available in 4 languages (Arabic, Brazilian Portuguese, Polish and Romanian) as well as in English. You can access these videos here.

Remote learning: what works?

The EEF’s rapid evidence assessment has published a report on the existing research (from 60 systematic reviews and meta-analyses) for approaches that schools could use, or are already using, to support the learning of pupils while schools are closed due to Covid-19.  The report is available here.

How can the excellent EAL support normally provided in schools be adapted to remote learning? Please get in touch (via to share your experience

Quantifying bilingualism

“How bilingual are the children in my classroom?” “How much experience of English have they had over their lifetime?” “From what point can I expect this EAL child to have caught up with her peers in terms of English proficiency?”

Children with English as an Additional Language can present very different profiles, and their needs and potential require a more fine-grained approach than a binary EAL / non-EAL categorisation.

The Quantifying Bilingual Experience project brings together an international team of researchers and practitioners to establish a consensus regarding what aspects of the multilingual language experience we need to measure in school settings and for what purpose.  This will inform the creation of user-friendly, online questionnaires (and their associated back-end calculators) to return measures of current and cumulative language experience in real time. Exploiting cutting-edge statistical techniques, we will also develop an objective method to identify early those bilingual children in need of support with their school language, helping practitioners estimate when a child who speaks a different language at home can be expected to have “caught up” with their monolingual peers.

The Q-BEx project is funded by the Economic and Social Research Council from October 2019 to September 2022. It is led by Professor Cecile De Cat (University of Leeds).

Online CPD from the BELL Foundation

In response to the Covid-19 crisis and school closures The Bell Foundation will be offering teachers increased opportunities for remote CPD to help them support pupils during and after closures, and publishing new resources which can be used with home learning. 

These opportunities are important because:As a result of school closures, pupils using English as an Additional Language (EAL) may spend weeks with limited access to the approaches to teaching which are best suited to enhancing their English language development alongside their curriculum learning. The switch to home learning is a challenge for most pupils. Adapting this unfamiliar medium to ensure appropriately differentiated pedagogy for students with EAL is likely to be even more so.Some students may lack explicit language input from schools and in many cases experience inconsistent or insufficient exposure to English in the home.  Therefore, there is a risk of loss of learning for many students using EAL, particularly those who are new to English or in the early acquisition stages.Considering that learning is now taking place at a distance, it is more important than ever that schools seek to develop effective communication with parents of learners who use EAL to ensure parents understand what they should be doing to support the learning of their children.  This highlights a need for schools to be especially mindful that communications (both written and spoken) are delivered in clear accessible English, and ideally supported by visual cues.

Free webinars:
The Bell Foundation will be hosting regular free, interactive webinars throughout school closure offering teachers unrivalled access to experts for CPD. 

Overview of forthcoming webinars
View previous webinar recordings

On 30 April 2020 the Foundation is running a series of three webinars focusing on how teachers can effectively support the learning of EAL pupils during and after school closures:

Supporting the home learning of primary EAL pupils
Supporting the home learning of secondary EAL pupils
Assessing the learning of primary and secondary EAL pupils

Free resources:
The Foundation is publishing guidance videos for schools on how to make home learning accessible for EAL pupils and their parents.  The first of these videos are now available on EAL Nexus.  We will be adding to these resources on a regular basis for as long as schools are closed.

View EAL Nexus videos

Online training courses:
Throughout school closure The Bell Foundation will be running online CPD opportunities for teachers and teaching assistants. The courses are designed to be highly interactive and collaborative, with opportunities to work with other course participants, course tutors and course material.  All courses are differentiated for primary and secondary levels.

View all courses
Embedding EAL Assessment
Primary: Teaching Assistants: Working with learners using EAL
Primary: Supporting new arrivals who are New to English
Primary: Introduction to EAL Assessment
Secondary: Teaching Assistants: Working with learners using EAL
Secondary: Supporting new arrivals who are New to English
Secondary: Introduction to EAL Assessment

Viewing past workshops

The recordings of our previous CPD workshops are available. You can access them through links at the end of each event item (via the Events menu).

2019 programme of EAL workshops

We are delighted to announce our continuous professional development programme for 2019, which aims to enhance the support for EAL pupils.

  • 13 February: Language for learning – going beyond vocabulary (by Jean Conteh and Dianne Excell)
  • 6 March: Supporting new arrivals and new to schooling students in mainstream lessons in secondary schools (by Georgina Vince)
  • 27 March: International New Arrivals: EYFS principles for all ages (by Louise Wood)
  • 17 April: Using the Home Language to enrich EAL support (by Saiqa Riasat)
  • 8 May: Making words work to support mathematical understanding and reasoning (by Thérèse O’Sullivan)
  • 12 June: How do we know it works? Approaches and tools for evaluation (by Dea Nielsen)
  • 3 July: Identifying and supporting EAL children who may have speech, language and communication needs (by Anne McCaffrey)

All events are free. Details will be published via our Events page.

Recordings and materials will be made available to download from our Events page after each EAL workshop.

These workshops are funded by an excellence and innovation fellowship from the Leeds Institute in Teaching Excellence.

LITE Fellowship (2018-19) to enhance support for EAL pupils

With one in five pupils across primary schools in England having English as an additional language (EAL) and a similar ratio in secondary education, language skills of teachers have never been more important. LITE Fellows Helen Sadig and Professor Cecile De Cat introduce their project on the subject here and explore how language pedagogy training can help boost learning across the curriculum for all pupils.

A civic need

There were over 1.5 million pupils with EAL in state schools recorded in the school census last year. This doesn’t include those in academies. EALs make up a rising and unevenly distributed population, which is especially dense in West Yorkshire. In many Leeds schools, the proportion is between 50% and 90%.

In addition, the main schools grant was frozen in 2010 and the Department for Education (DfE) had its capital funding budget cut by about a third between 2010-15. This has left many schools lacking the resources to provide additional support for EAL pupils.

The Students into Schools (SiS) programme here at Leeds University is a well-established, successful scheme which attracts approximately 400 students each year, placing them in local schools to provide subject-specific support, raise pupil aspirations and respond to this growing civic need.

An opportunity

Although there is an introductory EAL training session for students, it is voluntary, and the vast majority of students do not attend. Many are unaware of its importance and the prevalence of EAL pupils in local schools, as acknowledged by a student on the scheme last year:

In the school I worked in 89% of the students were EAL students. Because of where I’m from at home I’d never met anyone who’s first language wasn’t English. And a previous school I went to all of the children were born and raised in England.

This LITE project has given us an incredible opportunity to address the needs of both our students on SiS and local schools. Our main aims are to develop language pedagogy training for students and CPD workshops for teachers. This training is being informed by feedback from both students and teachers collected through participant interviews and online questionnaires.

Diversity and inclusion

One of the most rewarding aspects of the project so far has been the opportunity to visit local schools and experience first-hand the sheer diversity among EAL pupils in terms of their linguistic and socio-cultural background, level of English and previous schooling, if any.

Just as every child is unique, EAL pupils represent a hugely heterogeneous group of learners. And the support they receive should be equally targeted and informed. Perhaps one of the most interesting findings is that those traditionally ‘disadvantaged’ groups of monolingual English speakers, such as white working-class boys, benefit equally from the same directed language support as EAL pupils.

Schools have similarly diverse challenges and needs, from those which have an almost exclusively EAL population, to those with perhaps only one or two EAL pupils in each class. And everything in between. We have been inspired by the way in which schools genuinely celebrate diversity and are truly inclusive.

Language for learning

We have been designing and trialling workshop materials to increase students’ understanding of how language works and raise their awareness of both the language needs of EAL pupils and importance of language for learning.

The importance of language for learning cannot be overstated. Language underpins all school-based learning. Specifically, language allows pupils to participate in class, access the curriculum, negotiate academic literacies and succeed in examinations.

As bilingual and multilingual learners, EALs also have a rich linguistic capital which should be valued and exploited in the classroom. To that end, we have been promoting strategies to develop metalinguistic awareness and learner independence. These strategies support the learning of all pupils.

A civic curriculum

Feedback from teachers on effective pedagogical approaches includes strategies to facilitate communicative pair and group work activities; allow learners thinking, planning and rehearsal time; make use of visual and contextual support, pre-teach, extend and recycle vocabulary; and crucially, integrate – rather than separate – EAL and non-EAL pupils within schools.

In addition to the regional impact achieved through this engagement with the community, our project seeks to enhance the curriculum for SiS modules, develop students’ communication and employability skills and raise their awareness of their role as global citizens.

This project has the generous support and guidance of an Advisory Board, which contributes to invited EAL sessions, and includes the following partners:
• Prof Victoria Murphy (University of Oxford)
• Dr Dea Nilsen (Research Fellow for the Better Start Bradford Innovation Hub in Bradford)
• Dr Jean Conteh (EAL specialist)
• Dr James Simpson (University of Leeds)
• Dianne Excell (Regional Groups Co-ordinator for the National Association for Language Development in the Curriculum)
• Therese O’Sullivan (EAL consultant at Leeds City Council and Learning Improvement consultant)
• Beth Mitchell (EAL Area Team Leader, Leeds City Academy)
• Anne McCaffrey (SLT specialising in EAL children)
• Anastasia Karanika (Senior Officer for Students into Schools)
• Owen Radford-Lloyd (Officer for Students into Schools)
• Dr Claudine Bowyer-Crane (University of York)
• Dr Naomi Flynn (University of Reading)
• Dr Holly Joseph (University of Reading)
• Louise Wood (EAL researcher)
• Saiqa Raiquat (Bilingual Learning and Teaching Association Co-ordinator)