Supporting EAL beginners

A key 'must read' document about supporting EAL beginners is the 'New Arrivals Excellence Programme Guidance' by the Primary and Secondary National Strategies. Although produced in 2007, the information about new arrivals is sound and clearly explained. It also has useful links for further reading. The entire document can be printed out here.


Creating a welcoming environment

Its essential to create a warm caring environment to allow pupils to settle in and feel comfortable.

Buddy systems

An effective buddy for a newly arrived pupil can really make a big difference to how quickly and smoothly a newly arrived pupil settles in. Whilst ideally the buddy would speak the same language as the new pupil, in my opinion more important is choosing a child that is kind friendly and actually wants to be a buddy. The buddy will be giving up some of their time to make the new child feel at home and therefore someone who is keen to do this is of paramount importance. Some good advice for setting up a buddy programme for EAL beginners can be found here.


There are generally two things that people think about when they think of the term 'induction programme'.

Firstly a system for familiarising EAL beginners and their families with the way the school runs - uniform, lesson times, layout of the building, timetables, teachers, classes etc. Resources that can be useful for this are Mantralingua's Welcome booklet.

Secondly, a learning programme to support EAL beginners (who has little or no English) in the early days at the new school, if they are unable to access the curriculum imediately.

  • Tiscali - Resources and strategies linked to the QCA steps, for supporting pupils in the early stages of learning English;
  • Beginners syllabus - By Leicestershire Council - Booklet with ideas and resources for supporting children in the early stages of learning English, linked to the QCA steps;
  • has lists of good activities for the early stages of leanring English.


Jim Cummins

  • Basic Interpersonal Communicative Skills (BICS) is the language used in social situations, for example when palying with friends and in everyday conversations. I can take 1-3 years to develop proficiency in BICS. 
  • Cognitive Academic Langauge Proficiency (CALP) refers to the language and communication after the firs tfew years of learning a language. In the classroom this is often referred to as 'academic language' and involvesfunctions such as reasoning, hypothesizing, explaining etc. The communication skills for CALP often need specific explicit teaching as they require knowledge of language patterns and vocabulary not used in daily conversations. It is said to take about 5-7 years to develop CALP.


Schools in the UK are currently assessing pupils with English as an additional language in a range of ways. Some schools are using the QCA 'Language in Common' level descriptors. Some schools are using the NASSEA framework (old 2004) with its steps for assessment. There is a new NASSEA framework available from the NASSEA website now for £35. It provides a useful table which aligns a number of assessment frameworks including the Common European Framework of references for Languages (CEFR), old NASSEA steps, current equivalents to national curriculum stages and the New NASSEA EAL Framework. Powerpoint slides form the 2015 NALDIC Conference explain more about the document.

NALDIC is currently producing a new assessment tool but this is not yet complete.

The 2015 NALDIC Assessment conference has a number of very useful slide presentations from the speakers and workshops:

  • Assessment for Learning in the Early Years: Therese O'Sullivan explains how the home language can be used to evidence attainment of many of the ELGs. She also gives good examples of how to develop vocabulary.
  • Creating EAL friendly materials - primary:  Dr.  Oksana  Afitska shows some excellent examples of materials for different subject areas that are easy to use and helpful for pupils with EAL. He also highlights some of the errors frequently made by children who are in the advanced stages of learning English.

There are mixed views currently about whether assessment for EAL should be based solely on English language development or relate more to skills and age related attainment.

For secondary there is a very useful induction pack - Bristol EAL Secondary induction pack.

What Ofsted says about assessment of EAL pupils
The following information is from the Ofsted document 'English as an additional language - briefing for section 5 inspection 2013'

'RAISEonline provides data on all pupils whose first language is believed not to be English.'

'The school should monitor the attainment and progress of pupils who may be at the earliest stages of learning English. For example, schools may be using the step descriptors from A language in common: assessing English as an additional language (QCA, 2000/584). Although the scale is not statutory it was strongly recommended by the former DCSF. The school should also have taken steps to assess the learners’ proficiency and literacy in their first language and established what prior subject knowledge and experience they have in other subjects'.

'The progress and attainment of all EAL learners, including those who are advanced bilingual learners, should be closely monitored so they are doing as well as they can. The cognitive challenge should remain appropriately high and not be reduced because the English language demand has been reduced. EAL learners’ conceptual thinking may be in advance of their ability to speak English.'

Assessing reading

With schools now using a range of assessment systems, there is no longer one universal levelling system. You may find that assessing your EAL pupils within your school system works well. If not, the bookband levels, remain a clear and consistent system, which can be useful for obtaining a clear starting point for supporting a newly arrived pupil. You may carry out runnin grecords for Benchmarking  in your school, if so , great this is useful for determing the child's level and also undertanding of the text. provides free access to a range of books with book band levels. They also come with picture sequences at the back of each book which can be useful for getting the child to retell the story (for assessment of speaking).

Assessing EAL beginners on phonics - using the assessments connected to the phonics progammes you use in schools should be suitable for finding out where children are with their knowledge and desising a plan for teaching the unknown aspects. Two current effective programmes (there are many others) or methods are:

Assessing speaking

Sequencing and retelling a story can be an effective way of assessing EAL beginners skills in speaking.  A google search on sequencing stories will reveal a multitude of resources.

NALDIC Key Stage 1 EAL Descriptors

Naldic Key Stage 1 EAL Descriptors

Home language assessment

Home language assessment guidance

Learning strategies and resources


  • running records to analyse the child's use of the three strategies (meaning, visual, structure)
  • rich discussion of the text prior to reading:
  • rereading familiar books
  • vocabulary discussion
  • relating content to the child's experiences
  • choosing books that model grammatical structures
  • making and using dual language books
  • teaching phonic gaps
  • teaching letter knowledge
  • using audio texts
  • using online reading and phonic programmes


  • cut up sentences
  • co-construction:
  • graphic organisers:
  • writing prompts/templates/sentence stems
  • widget symbols
  • clicker 5
  • writing in the home language


A Maths Dictionary for kids is a brilliant online resouce providing visual representations of key concepts for EAL beginners and advanced EAL pupils. Maths charts are also available from the same website.

Barrier games / information gap activities

Try out these barrier games or invent your own. Great for EAL beginners or advanced EAL learners.

Useful documents or programmes

Supporting newly arrived bilingual pupils - PDF with an excellent overview and practical ideas.

English as an Additional Language - working with beginners at KS1 and 2 - Excellent booklet by Gloucestershire Race Equlaity and Diversity Service

Racing into English is a website with over 300 language activities that encourage group interaction. There are suitable activities for beginner pupils and also activities for pupils at a more advanced stage of learning English. Some examples of activities for beginners are:

Ofsted guidance

Ofsted has published a number of case studies on outstanding practice in EAL available at:

Schools should be aware of the resources and information on supporting pupils’ learning EAL available from the Department for Education (DfE) at:

Ofsted guidance:

  • 'Specialist EAL support should be available for new arrivals from qualified teachers or teaching assistants who have received appropriate training and support. More advanced learners of English should have continuing support in line with their varying needs as they develop competencies over time.
  • Class/subject teachers should plan collaboratively with EAL support teachers or teaching assistants. There should be a focus on both language and subject content in lesson planning.
  • All EAL learners have a right to access the National Curriculum and the Early Years Foundation Stage. This is best achieved within a whole school context. Pupils learn more quickly when socialising and interacting with their peers who speak English fluently and can provide good language and learning role models.
  • Any withdrawal of EAL learners from a mainstream class should be for a specific purpose, time limited and linked to the work of the mainstream class; the subject/class teacher should be involved in all the planning.
  • The school development plan should have clear objectives and strategies for the needs of EAL learners.
  • There should be regular training for all staff on the needs of EAL learners.
  • Any additional funding for EAL learners should be deployed strategically to support new arrivals as well as advanced bilingual learners.'