EAL pupils: “We invested heavily in the expertise of all teachers” 

This week's TES cover story (13 April 2018) focuses on pupils with English as an additional language (EAL). 

It looks at the reasons given for the strong overall academic progress of this large, disparate group. It includes quotes from the EEF's chief executive, Sir Kevan Collins, based on his leadership experience in Tower Hamlets:

Primary schools embraced the literacy and numeracy strategies and developed systematic and structured teaching in these areas, albeit as part of a broad and creative curriculum. Teachers were a vital component. “We invested heavily in the expertise of all teachers,” Sir Kevan says. “The numbers meant that everyone had to be an expert on teaching EAL: it wasn’t sidelined to a ‘specialist’ unit.” The local authority leadership maintained a tenacious accountability framework backed up with support, and resources were well used and aligned to deliver impact. “Our schools were well-resourced and demonstrated what can be done when funding is targeted to need.”

Sir Kevan also highlights the importance of developing a community-wide consensus involving parents and the community, as well as business and local politicians:

The business partnership was significant and the Canary Wharf link was tangible with huge practical support. “At one time, there were nearly 4,000 volunteers coming into schools each month,” Sir Kevan says. Local politicians made it their number one priority, he says, and always backed education. And schools were given huge levels of freedom and autonomy to shape the character and ethos of their school. “It was diversity without fragmentation.”

Both TES articles are available to read online:

Our work on EAL

In 2015, we published two linked evidence reviews on pupils classified as EAL. These found that that:

  • there is a massive variation in the results achieved by EAL pupils. While some catch up with their peers by the age of 16, average attainment figures mask a huge range of different outcomes;
  • there is a serious lack of robust research evidence. No examples of randomised controlled trials (RCTs), or studies where the effectiveness of the intervention was evaluated by an independent review team, could be identified.

This led to us launching a major themed funding round (in partnership with Bell Foundation and Unbound Philanthropy) focused on addressing this gap, identifying high-potential projects ready to be evaluated across large numbers of English schools. Three projects were funded: