Learning Language

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Chine et al (2002:2) suggested that ‘The great majority of teachers across the country may now expect to work with minority ethnic pupils at some point in their career, and mainly white schools in almost all areas may expect to admit minority ethnic pupils more frequently than in the past' in Gravelle, M. ‘Bilingual Learners, Bilinguilism, Learning and Inclusion.'

Critique what provision there is, or could be, for meeting the diverse linguistic (ie use of language to support learning) and cultural needs of the students in your placement schools.

Stubbs (1983) states that language is crucial in a Childs education as schools and classrooms are all-encompassing language environments. One of his main arguments was that ‘every teacher is an English teacher and every lesson is an English lesson', in this sense he states that teaching is almost impossible without language. This is supported by the constructivist Piaget and social constructivist Vygotsky who value language and culture on development. Particularly Vygotsky who believes the use of language can ‘reduce the zone of proximal development'. While all three authors work is dated they clearly agree on the principle that language is essential for learning. This poses the question that if language cannot be used how can pupils learn?

In the United Kingdom English is the dominant language used within schools, but up to 10% of the school population has English as an additional language (EAL) (Multiverse Website). Much of this populous has varying language skills and it is thought that 300 different additional languages operate within our schools. More worryingly only 38% of Secondary School teachers felt well prepared enough to teach EAL students (Multiverse Website). In recent years there has been an influx of migrants into the United Kingdom which has resulted in an increase in number of approximately 50% of EAL students in schools (NALDIC Website).

Two schools are included, School A, which is made up predominantly of white middle class and white working class children and a small cohort of students from other ethnic backgrounds and School B, which is a school situated in a large village which is predominantly white middle class, but with slightly higher numbers of students from another ethnic background.

The government has sought to address the needs of language and culture by making provision such students. The first recognition of this was by the DES (1985) who stated that needs of EAL students should be met in mainstream schools. Over time policy has evolved to help meet the needs of EAL learners. The Race Relations Act (1976) which was updated to Race Relations Act (2003) serves as a tool which promotes inclusion of ethnic minority groups within schools which in promotes and values diversity while challenging racism. The act states that an inclusive curriculum is a statutory requirement of the national curriculum which specifies that schools have a responsibility to meet specific needs of pupils and groups. This is further supported by the United Nations Convention for the Rights of the Child.

Both School A and B have equal opportunities policies in place which are closely linked to Every Child Matters (DfES 2004), both schools have a dedicated member of staff for this role. As ECM (DfES 2004) states that all pupils have a right irrespective of circumstances for education therefore the needs of EAL students and culture must be met. Both Schools have PSHE lessons which have content relating to racism and culture however at both schools a degree of apathy exists from the students having to undertake these lessons as many students see the area as not having many minorities therefore the lessons are not relevant. School A particularly had a focus on ‘how would I feel if?' scenarios to bring the issues closer to home in a predominantly white British area. PSHE lessons used a variety of means such as ICT and role-play to highlight and overcome prejudice and discrimination.

School A recently was criticised by Ofsted for not providing dedicated Religious Education lessons for upper school pupils. A cohort of Year 11 students from School A has particularly negative opinions of other minority groups. Some of these pupils genuinely believed that far right groups would meet their own future needs than an inclusive society, this was reflected by graffiti on some exercise books. The suggestion by Ofsted to provide RE to upper school may result in less xenophobic attitudes in School A. Nevertheless racist viewpoints may be deeply rooted within families, therefore are difficult to tackle. This leads to an intial conclusion that the cultural needs of white British pupils in School A are not being met to reflect an emerging multi-lingual and multiracial society.

Many of the different ethnic groups speak a multitude of languages, within England there are 686,000 children who are classified as being EAL (Teachernet, 2007). Therefore it is possible that schools may have to cater for several different first languages. Both schools have small numbers of EAL students which were said to have good levels of English Language skills. All EAL students at School B do not have SEN, EAL is not classed as having a special educational need. The SEN Code of Practice (2001) states that ‘children must not be regarded as having a learning difficulty solely because of language or form of their language of their home is different from the language they are taught' (DfES, 2001: 6). Hence, as EAL is not a learning difficulty funds cannot be acquired in this way, the EAL pupils of School B do not have IEP's which could be useful to support them. However Multiverse highlights that funding for EAL students can be sought from the Ethnic Minority Achievement Group (EMAG), which provides funding for the provision of additional staff if necessary (Multiverse Website).

Due to the high level of English of the EAL learners at the school, much of the policy devoted to EAL is not put into place. National guidelines suggest that initially pupils should be allowed to absorb English during a ‘silent period and teachers should use culturally relevant materials which allow students to use their first language to support understanding. This should be supported by grouping EAL learners with the same language and providing support to parents, which in turn to be an asset to the school. These guidelines are reiterated in School B's EAL policy. School B further supports this by encouraging pupils to take GCSE's in their first language to retain culture and promote self-esteem of their mother tongue. School B encourages differentiation for EAL students however this is not always implemented as many of the students have good levels of English. In one of the authors lessons it was noted that an EAL student found pace of writing difficult, therefore I am myself guilty neglecting this student early on my placement. Suggested strategies are present in the schools EAL policy such as allowing opportunities for role-play, providing bi-lingual resources and by proving regular feedback to students.

Both school A and School B have an EAL policy in place which is not always implemented, in particular School B's EAL policy was written in 2006 therefore it is outdated and does not reflect the current cohort of pupils at the school. School B's policy does indeed follow national practice but, as many of the pupils need little or no support the provision is suitable at this time. Needless to say that if an influx of EAL students the schools occurred they would be poorly prepared to meet the needs of the pupils. In this time of financial hardship it is difficult to envisage whether School B would have the finances to support EAL students when there are more prominent issues within school life.


DES (1985). Education for All (the Swann Report). London: HMSO.

Department for Education and Skills (2001) Special Educational Needs: Code of Practice. Available at: http://www.teachernet.gov.uk/_doc/3724/SENCodeOfPractice.pdf (Accessed: 24/11/2009)

Department for Education and Skills (2004). Every Child Matters: Change for Children. Available at: www.everychildmatters.gov.uk/aims/ (Accessed: 20/03/2010).

Multiverse Website (n.d) English as an Additional Language. Available at: http://www.multiverse.ac.uk/ (Accessed: 20/03/2010)

NALDIC Website (n.d) Teaching of EAL and Bilingual Pupils. Available at: http://www.naldic.org.uk/ITTSEAL2/teaching/index.cfm (Accessed: 20/03/2010)

Stubbs, M. (1983) Language, Schools and Classrooms: Second Edition: Contemporary Sociology of the School. The Chaucer Press, Suffolk.

Teachernet (2007) Teaching English as an Additional Language: The Challenges for Classroom Teachers. Available online at: http://www.teachernet.gov.uk/teachingandlearning/library/EALteaching/ (Accessed: 21/03/2010)