English as an Additional Language

A child is defined as having English as an Additional Language (EAL) if they are exposed to any other language in their home environment, even if English is considered to be their first language.

Bilingualism or multilingualism is highly valued by Gipsy Hill Federation. Research shows that, after 5 to 8 years of education in their second language, children who speak two or more languages do better in all areas of the curriculum than their monolingual counterparts; especially if they have strong literacy skills in their mother tongue. As a result we encourage parents to continue to support their children to develop their reading and writing skills in their first language at home as the best way to support their development in English.

Support for EAL Children in Class

The majority of the support that is given to EAL learners is through adapting resources and provision within the mainstream classroom. EAL learners learn English most quickly when they are exposed to good language role models and given comprehensible input. In practice, this means that, wherever possible, children sit on a table with children who are working at the same academic level as they are regardless of their English language ability. To support them in accessing the curriculum, teachers and teaching assistants make use of visual prompts (pictures, diagrams, illustrations) and scaffolding frameworks e.g. speaking frames, graphical organisers. In some cases, when the child is especially new to English, additional support is provided by the teaching assistant during the teacher input through the rewording of instructions and questions, providing children with the opportunity to practise their responses before replying to the teacher and providing additional visual support by modelling on a whiteboard.

Another important tool that is used to support EAL learners is the identification of key vocabulary that they will need to understand the content of a lesson. This is highlighted at the planning stage. It may then be displayed around the classroom, taught separately at the beginning of a lesson or, in some cases, pre-taught to small groups of children in advance of the lesson.

In some cases, children who speak the same first language will translate for each other. Occasionally additional in-class support is provided by a specialist SEN HLTA. Online and computer programmes are also used to support children’s language development.

Parents are encouraged to come into class to read with their children in their first language during “Parents into Reading”.  They may also be invited to share a book with the whole class.

Newly Arrived Children

Children who arrive to Gipsy Hill Federation with little or no English are given additional support at the start of their school journey with us to help them to settle into English school life. Where possible, they will be given the opportunity to look around the school and meet their class teacher prior to starting in the school. They will be assigned one or two “buddies” in their class to show them round the school, ensure that they know where they need to be and when and to keep them company in class and in the playground. Often this will be a child who has the same first language.

We have a specialist EAL programme called “Race into English” that is delivered in small groups outside of the mainstream classroom for children who have little or no English. This introduces children to the key vocabulary that they will need each day in school.

In addition the teacher may try to learn some common phrases in the child’s first language and/or have key vocabulary displayed in the child’s first language in the classroom. Children may also be allowed to write in their first language and/or work with a peer to produce dual-language work.
Children are assessed in English and in their first language on arrival at the school.

Assessing Children’s English Development

All EAL children are assessed in their language development at least twice a year. This is in addition to the assessment of the children’s literacy, maths and science levels. However the children are not given additional tests for this assessment. Judgements are made based on the evidence of the work that the children produce in class over a period of time.

Children can be judged as working at a level from 1 to 4, with 1 corresponding to emerging English language skills and 4 corresponding to near-native English skills. On average it takes children 5 to 8 years to reach level 4. Children are assessed in their speaking and listening, reading and writing skills, with the exception of children in the Foundation Stage (Nursery and Reception), who are just assessed on their speaking and listening skills. Comparisons are made between the performance of the EAL children and their age related, English Mother Tongue skills.

EAL Theory for Parents

Bilingual education theorists have divided the development of second language learning into two categories – BICS (Basic Interpersonal Communication Skills) and CALP (Cognitive Academic Language Proficiency).

BICS is the children’s ability to talk to their peers on a social level. On average it takes children 1 to 2 years to develop these skills. Often children will have a “silent period” during this stage where they will not talk in English, even though their understanding is good. The length of the silent period will vary from child to child and may last up to two years. However, research indicates that this makes no difference to the child’s final capacity to communicate in English.

CALP is the children’s ability to work academically in English. It takes between 5 and 8 years for children to become fully proficient in this. However, once they have achieved a good level of proficiency, this is when bilingual learners begin to out-perform mono-lingual learners.

There are two key ways that parents can support their children in their English acquisition.

  1. Support the children in maintaining and developing their mother-tongue skills. Parents should talk to their children in their first language unless they have strong English language skills of their own.
  2. Encourage your child to read as much as they can. This will impact on all areas of their academic development.

Raising Children Bilingually

Separation of Languages

Research indicates that bilingual/multilingual children develop their languages best when there is a clear separation of the languages.  There are three main ways to ensure there is a clear separation. Consideration should be given to the age of the child when making a decision about which one to use and their capacity to understand concepts of time and space.

  1. Separation by person – operating a one-person one language policy. Each adult always talks to the child in the same language.
  2. Separation by space – identifying different rooms for different languages
  3. Separation by time – identifying different times of the day for different languages.

Regardless of the method chosen, children should be allowed to respond in whichever language they chose to use.

It is worth noting that children who are being raised bilingually from birth may start to speak later than their mono-lingual peers. This is especially the case for boys. It is common for parents to stop using one of the languages at this point. However this is not necessary as the bilingual learners soon catch up. It is also common for bilingual learners to go through a stage of developing their own words and language. Again, this is nothing to be concerned about.


At Kingswood lower site we celebrate the fact that 45 different languages are spoken by our children. We are aware that many parents learn to speak English alongside their children and are not always able to read in English.

We now have story books in 30 different languages at Kingswood lower and parents can come to the atrium, during Parents-in-to-Read on a Friday, and read to their children in their mother tongue. This is really important for 2 reasons: firstly, it is very important for children to hear ‘story language’ in the language with which they are most familiar because they will absorb it and then apply it to stories when learning to read, and, secondly, it is very important for children to see their parents as readers.

All the books are ‘dual language’ so each book has the story in English as well. Please come and enjoy these new books on a Friday.

This has been very well received and we hope to roll it out across all sites in due course.

  • Kingswood Primary School Lower Site
  • Kingswood Primary School Upper Site
  • Elm Wood Primary School
  • Paxton Primary School
  • Crawford Primary School
  • Fernstanton Primary School
  • Glenbrook Primary School
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