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England’s EALs struggle with home-schooling

How is coronavirus home schooling working for children in England who have English as an Additional Language (EAL), and does it compare with the situation in the US (see page 6)?

To find out, the Gazette spoke to Hamish Chalmers, vice-chair of Naldic, the subject association for EAL teachers, and a lecturer at the Department of Education, University of Oxford.

As in the US, in England these children are often very disadvantaged, he told us. As well as a “lack of linguistic support” from parents, EAL children share the same problems as other students from deprived backgrounds. Many parents have to go out to work and are unable to supervise their children’s home schooling. Homes do not have computers or internet connections, and equipment promised by education authorities has been slow in coming.

England’s teachers had “four days’ notice” of schools closing and, Chalmers reports, in the early days of the lockdown teachers in South London were delivering printed teaching materials to EAL students’ homes.

England has a higher percentage of EAL students than America, but both report the ability to support these children varies widely by region. According to Chalmers, EAL is “part of the fabric of schools” in regions like Leicester and London, which have large immigrant populations, but other parts of England “don’t have the staff or the expertise.”

Unlike their US peers, all EAL children are taught in mainstream classes. That means one important part of teaching is differentiation – tailoring subject classes to EAL children. Differentiation is already “difficult face-to-face” and many EAL approaches are “not the kind of thing you can do on paper.”

Home schooling takes EAL students “away from good models of academic English,” something which is “much more difficult to acquire” outside a face-to-face classroom context. For example, it may not be possible for EAL kids, and their parents, to follow science classwork in English, so the strategy has been to “do whatever is possible in their home language.”

To make this easier, the EAL Journal website has links to teaching materials in other languages – for example, science texts from the Polish national schools’ curriculum.

Chalmers also has special praise for publishers Mantra Lingua for giving free access during the pandemic to bilingual e-textbooks and audiobooks in many languages.

Image courtesy of HAMISH CHALMERS
Matt Salusbury
Matt Salusbury
MATT SALUSBURY, news editor and journalist, has worked for EL Gazette since 2007. He is also joint Chair of the London Freelance Branch of the National Union of Journalists and co-edits its newsletter, the Freelance. He taught English language for 15 years in the Netherlands, in Turkey, in a North London further education college and now as an English for Academic Purposes tutor, most recently at the London School of Economics. He is a native English speaker and is also fluent in Dutch.
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