Why is it Important to Develop Effective Strategies to Support Children with EAL in their PSED?



In England, the government defines EAL learners as those pupils who have been exposed to other language(s) besides English in their early childhood and continue to be exposed to such language(s) at home or in the community (The Bell Foundation, 2016). Learners moving to England and enrolling in various schools come from different countries and often vary in ethnic, political, religious, or social class backgrounds. Thus, the abbreviation EAL refers to a diverse group of pupils in England for whom English is the second, third, or even in other cases fourth language. The language levels of this group are of concern to the stakeholders of education in England because their levels of understanding English are usually inferior to native English speakers or citizens of England. They are disadvantaged in the classroom relative to pupils who have been exposed to English only during their early childhood and come from families and communities that use only English as the language of communication. Specifically, the current definition of EAL is “all pupils who use or have access to more than one language at home or at school – it does not necessarily imply full fluency in both or all languages” (DfES 2007, cited in The Bell Foundation, 2016).

Challenging many assumptions and stereotypes about EAL learners

            Biases in teachers’ judgments of EAL pupils’ potential present an important obstacle to their academic performances. Such bigotry may unconsciously lead teachers to award scores to the pupils unfairly giving them lower marks than that which they actually score. Campbell (2013) identified EAL as a factor in determining the level of performance of pupils. He highlighted EAL as among the pupil-level characteristics associated with lower score performance than students classified as speaking English only.

            The findings of the study conducted by Campbell (2013) challenged the assumptions and stereotypes that EAL has inferior potential for academic performance than pupils with English as the only language. In particular, the results indicated “... that sample Bangladeshi, Black African, Indian and EAL pupils tended to score highly on the Word reading test ...” (Campbell 2013, p. 30). On the contrary, Campbell (2013) asserts that indications of bias for EAL among other level characteristics remain. MCS students of the same income levels, with the same scores on the BAS Word Reading exam, but who speak another language(s) have a lower probability than those people who speak only English of being judged above average at reading by their instructors (Campbell 2013). 

Impacts of Policies and Legislation on the Needs of Children with EAL in Early Years

Over the years, the approach to EAL in England has shifted from an English as a Foreign Language (EFL) perspective to a special interpretation of the notion of mainstreaming. The EFL approach prioritised language learning but overlooked its position in the wider curriculum. Prior to the enactment of the mainstreaming policy, EAL children were mostly instructed in distinct language centers with limited or zero access to the conventional curriculum for up to 18 months before they would be integrated into the curriculum, and mixed with children with English as the only language (Leung, 2005).

The most dramatic policy change in relation to EAL occurred in the mid-1980s when the inclusion of EAL into the broader curriculum was officially endorsed (Leung, 2005). Initially, the policy was aimed at eliminating barriers to equality of access to education, where denial of EAL students to the broader curriculum was outlawed (Leung, 2005). The implication of this policy shift was that students in the path of learning EAL are required to comply with the statutory National Curriculum in their respective classes. Nonetheless, the policy exempted those taking induction courses for the English language in certain schools. Thus, the current Government policy mandates schools to teach EAL learners other subjects in the syllabus concurrent with learning English. In other words, this population of students should not have “a subject status” in the mainstream curriculum.

The UK has set up policies to guide the education of EAL. Policies for teaching EAL charge Local Authorities with a legal duty to ensure access to education for all children of school age regardless of their migration status, nationality, or right of residence. The government prioritized rapid language accusation and inclusion in mainstream education for EAL children.

The Government of England acknowledges the benefits associated with the maintenance of ethnic minority language and culture. However, it believes that the main responsibility for preserving their mother tongues is the duty of the communities themselves. The legislation requires the use of English as the medium of instruction in schools across England (Overington, 2012).

Practical Strategies for Setting New EAL Arrivals in a Setting  

The strategies used for setting up new arrivals follow specific steps. First, schools targeted by the new arrivals should set up an interview to gather information about the parents of the prospective EAL pupil, with some parents requiring the use help of translators. The interview will seek to know the name the child or the parents would prefer to be called with emphasize on the right pronunciation; the English language exposure; the language(s) spoken at home; the former school; and the type of reading materials at home. Other essential information includes the strengths of the child, the health status of the child; and the preferred language to communicate to the parent among others.

After the interview, schools should resist the temptation of placing EALs with limited experience in school in a group one year lower than their actual age (Department for Children, Schools and Families, 2007). School administrators should take into consideration emotional consequences placing them below their age group. Instead, placing them in their age-appropriate classes helps accelerate their reading and writing styles.

The Department for Children, Schools, and Families (2007) councils class teachers to instruct their classes on ways to support and embrace new arrivals into their teams and groups. The teacher can discuss with the class the possible challenges the new arrivals can face and the things they can do to help.

Theorists of Child Development

            Language is an important component of a culture whose role in children should not be undermined.  Vygotsky placed more and indifferent stress on the role language plays in cognitive development (McLeod, 2014), as opposed to Piaget who postulated that thoughts precede language development. Vygotsky (1962, cited in McLeod, 2014) assumes that thought and language are separated during early childhood, but merge when a child reaches age three, generating verbal thoughts. He contends that internalizing language leads to cognitive development.

Vygotsky (1962, cited in McLeod, 2014) argues that children depend on ‘private speech’ to plan activities and strategies; thereby, facilitating their growth. Private speech refers to the adoption of language to regulate one’s tendencies. This was because language speeds up the thinking process or comprehension. This view of the language is shared by Jerome Bruner.

Bronfenbrenner (1994), on the other hand, does not share the same exact perspective as the above two theorists. In his ecological system theory of child development, he argues that understanding a child’s development requires considering the ecological system within which the person grew. 

Support that can be offered to parents of children with EAL (Why is it important)

            Different forms of support for children of EAL are available. School staff in charge of EAL students should familiarize such parents during the initial stages of integrating such children into schools in England (Department for Children, Schools and Families, 2007).


Bronfenbrenner, U. (1994). Ecological models of human development. International Encyclopedia of Education, 3.

Campbell, T. (2013). Stereotypes at seven? Biases in teacher judgements of pupils' ability and attainment. London: Institute of Education (IOE).

Department for children, schools and families. (2007, September ). New arrival excellence program guidance: Primary and secondary national strategies.

Leung, C. (2005). English as an additional language policy: Issues of inclusive access and language learning in the mainstream. Prospect, 20 (1).

McLeod, S. (2014). Lev Vygotsky. Retrieved April 21, 2017

Overington, A. (2012, February 15). English as an Additional Language: A brief summary of Government policy in relation to EAL learners.

The Bell Foundation. (2016). EAL Learners in the UK. Retrieved April 20, 2017, from British Council



£ 10 .00