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Why EXACTLY do people see EAL pupils as a hindrance to their kid's education?

(35 Posts)
Rosebud05 Mon 04-Jul-11 20:25:01

On MN and in RL, I've heard lots and lots of people say that a large percentage of children with a home language other than English puts them off a school.

It's been cited in several 'I will not send my child to that school and will HE' threads for example.

Without starting a bun fight, is anyone able to explain what the perceived problems are? Are people concerned that their child's education/language development will be hindered? Is there any truth in this?

moondog Mon 04-Jul-11 20:26:46

THGe issue is probably that teachers will need to spend a lot of timne supporting these kids and teaching them the language, that less time left ot teach. Teaching maths and teaching Englsih in order to teach Maths are two very different things.

FingandJeffing Mon 04-Jul-11 20:29:57

It doesn't bother me. I suspect though it is a resources issue. They worry that the extra provision has a cost to the school which is not fully met by additional funding. I have no idea if it is true or not. It is certainly a stat collected by offsed in the same way as free school meals.

activate Mon 04-Jul-11 20:52:15

drains resources

Takver Mon 04-Jul-11 21:21:28

I think that often it is a concern for people if a large majority of the pupils share the same other language - because potentially a lot of socialising can happen in that shared language.

Taking a less emotive context, I know parents who have chosen to send their children to a Welsh medium school where most children are from Welsh speaking backgrounds, instead of to dd's school where most don't speak it at home - because they want a school where the 'playground language' is Welsh. (And of course the language of out-of-school friendships.) Its fair enough, I think - certainly dd always speaks English with her friends outside of lesson time.

Obv. this isn't an issue in a school where there are many other languages spoken, rather than one dominant language.

bubblesincoffee Mon 04-Jul-11 21:34:57

I would worry that the teacher was having to spend more time explaining things to children with EAL than they would have to if the majority of children had English as a first language. Teaching time would be lost, and time the teacher could be spending on individual children could be lost. It seems kind of obvious that unless children are fluent in a language, it's going to be harder for them to learn in that language, and so a worry would be that children without a language barrier were being held back and were unable to fulfil their potential because time was being spent getting EAL children to understand the basics.

I would also be very concerned that children would segregate into those with EAL and those without, and that would mean that there were less potential friends for my child, and that they wouldn't be able to mix easily with the whole class.

I think it's a very valid concern, and to answer your op, I wouldn't worry that it could affect my child's language development, but I do think that concerns over social development and education would be enough to stop me sending my child to a school with lots of children with EAL.

magicmummy1 Mon 04-Jul-11 21:36:45

Lots of EAL kids in dd's class - doesn't bother me, but then dd is bilingual anyway so perhaps it wouldn't. Interestingly, seven of the eight kids on the "top table" in dd's class are bilingual, and four of those don't speak any English at home. The school seems to have a very positive take on this issue, and I have never heard any complaints.

But it probably helps that nearly all of the parents - EAL or otherwise - are very pro education and supportive of the school. There is no dominant second language in the classroom, as the community is very diverse. And most, though not all, of the parents can get by quite well in English themselves.

FellatioNelson Mon 04-Jul-11 21:48:05

Apart from the obvious practical issues a teacher has in coping with a large number of EAL pupils, for me it would be not the language problem itself, but all the other associated socail and deprivation issues that often go hand in hand with EAL pupils. I wouldn't mind a smallish percentage of EAL, in the same way that I wouldn't mind a small percentage of SENs, or free school meals, or Gypsy and Traveller children, or any other thing that, when present in very large percentages, tends to change the dynamic of the school, and ultimately will affect overall standards, for any number of complex reasons.

That is not to say they are necessarily 'bad' schools - I'm sure some of them are fabulous schools - yet they still get (more often than not) lower than average results across the board. For me, the average attainment level of the peer group a child is with at school is by far the strongest indicator of the outcome for that child - more so than the quality of teaching or the aspirations of parents.

reallytired Mon 04-Jul-11 21:56:46

EAL kids require (and deserve) extra help until they have mastered English. Not being able to speak English is a special need and a school needs resources to support such children. Once a child can speak good English then they are no hinderence.

I guess that some people object to sending their children to a school were native English people are the ethnic minority. This is a different issue to children not being able to speak English. It depends on the school. If 90% of the children are hyperthetically polish or Bengali speakers then there might be an issue.

Parents often worry about problems which don't exist. Children will flourish provided there is strong leadership

Takver Tue 05-Jul-11 10:17:14

Fellationelson - I think you are right - people will talk about EAL being the problem, when in practice what they are concerned about is social/economic deprivation.

As a child I went for a couple of years to a primary with a very high number of EAL pupils. It was in an area of London which had lots of embassy / diplomatic families living there - funnily enough it was a very highly regarded and oversubscribed school grin

littleducks Tue 05-Jul-11 10:24:32

Having English as an additional language (EAL) is not a problem in itself, there are several children in dd's class who speak another language (French/German/Polish/Urdu) to their parents as they line up to go into class but then switch into fluent English with their peers and you would have to be told that they were bilingual.

Children joining the school 'at an early stage of learning English' can be problematic, more so as the children get older, but a good school can deal with this effectively.

Elibean Tue 05-Jul-11 10:27:27

I think thats it, in a nutshell.

In State education, I think there used to be funding for EAL provision - but its been cut? Might be wrong, but have a feeling...

At our State primary, some of the highest achieving pupils in KS2 are the ones who came into the school as EAL. There is some impact in Foundation and KS1, in terms of lack of individual support (we are looking into how to improve this) and in terms of over stretched staff, but somehow it all sorts itself out.

Elibean Tue 05-Jul-11 10:28:08

x-post - 'thats it' refers to Takver's post!

strictlovingmum Tue 05-Jul-11 10:40:21

I would certanly have no problem sending my children to school where there is large number of pupils with EAL.
In fact I would embrace it and would tend to view it as enriching to my child overall education.
takver agree with you, it is more to do with social/economical concerns.
litleducks I am in owe how these bilingual kids and there parents switch from one language to the other I think it is a gift to be able o speak more then one language.
If our only english speaking children are exposed to other languages through school years, on the long run our children will benefit by hearing different languages and in turn probably find it easier to relate to and learn foreign languages themselves.

feckwit Tue 05-Jul-11 10:44:26

There are a few children in the school mine got to with EAL, I think it is very positve as it means differing cultures which is very important educationally. We have travelling children, Polish, French, Japanese, Indian, Chinese, Romanian, Greek that I can think of off the top of my head. It doesn't impact for long, children pick up English in about a year ime, despite having none when they start.

Jinx1906 Tue 05-Jul-11 10:47:49

In our school, DD has 4 EAL children in her class. One is from Pakistan and the 3 others are from China.

DD is now in year 6, and our experience is that these children have not taken the level of education to a lower level at all. If anything they are all very high achievers, especially the 3 Chinese girls.

I do think schools should encourage children to speak English in the playground so that all can join in.

My kids are bilingual and they are well aware that they should speak English to each other when other English speakers are present. Imho this is just a matter of manners, rather than anything else.

Quodlibet Tue 05-Jul-11 11:02:13

I went to primary school in an area of inner London with extremely high EAL and definitely count myself as enriched for it. It didn't hamper my learning at all. I came away with an understanding of all the major world religions, a smattering of Urdu and a life-long curiosity for other cultures that's taken me to to some amazing places.

From my experience working in schools now, the proportion of children with EAL is going to affect your child far less than the proportion of children who are too strung out to concentrate or learn because they've been playing video games all night, but there's no Ofsted statistic for that (and it's a whole other bunfight thread.)

ICantFindAFreeNickName Tue 05-Jul-11 11:08:08

I do understanbd the concerns. Schools get very little support for EAL children & we have had children turn up at our school with no english at all, that has to make it more difficult for the teachers, and take up more of their time. To be fair most of them were pretty fluent in English after a year.

If is also a social/economic deprivation issue - please don't shoot me because I'm probably not going to be able to explain this well - but a school that is full of EAL children because many of the parents are working abroad (diplomats etc), is very different to one that is full of EAL because the parents have learnt english despite living here all their lives.

Elibean Tue 05-Jul-11 11:15:20

Quodlibet: what a lovely post.

strictlovingmum Tue 05-Jul-11 11:18:03

Quodlibet yes, enriching, eye opening experiences to last you life time and show you different cultures and their beauty.
If the teacher has to give a bit more time to EAL pupil for short while so be it I honestly don't think it will hinder my child progress, on the other hand I would be bothered by large number of OES pupils with no drive, no parental positive input, no strive for education, having generally poor attitude towards school.

Gooseberrybushes Tue 05-Jul-11 11:20:45

It's definitely a problem, not necessarily the deprivation aspect but the language side of things. Have experience of highly funded, wealthy pupil ratio schools with language issues like this and there is definitely an issue with time, understanding, comprehension, acquisition of higher English skills and so on.

I think it also depends on the proportion of children who speak EAL and whether or not there is a clear dominant subculture.

My kids are bilingual speaking English and a "community language". Some of the local schools had 75%+ children with EAL; I find it difficult to accept that having such a high proportion of children needing extra support with English wouldn't have had resource issues for the early years. In our case our DC's would have been part of the dominant minority and probably would have gravitated to the children who spoke the same community language and so would not have been mixing as widely as I would have liked.

In their current school there are still children who have EAL / speak other languages at home but the proportion is smaller and the ethnic mix of the school is more diverse.

SpareRoomSleeper Tue 05-Jul-11 17:53:53

Whats OES short for? confused

GiddyPickle Tue 05-Jul-11 18:10:44

As Takver says - one concern is that is a large percentage of children in a school share the same first language, they will perhaps form an isolated group at playtimes and in the classroom and a divided class could result (not in an aggressive way but just in the sense that children cannot mix).

I have been told by teacher friends (although it seems to be contradicted here so maybe I misunderstood) that EAL is definitely not classed as an SEN or as an additional need so there is no extra funding for it and no extra help. Maybe that varies? This means that there are children requiring a lot of extra help but no extra staff to help them therefore the worry is that other children will be short of attention.

Also EAL doesn't mean they cannot speak English. Some EAL pupils will be at the early stages of learning English but others will be perfectly fluent even though English is still their additonal language not their first one. So it would depend on that too.

Elibean Tue 05-Jul-11 18:18:43

Giddy, that is what I heard too - there used to be specific EAL funding per pupil, but isn't anymore. I think thats quite a recent change hmm

Totally agree that some EAL pupils speak fluent English - one of dd's friends (Swedish) is classed as EAL, and will occasionally not understand a word that any English as a first-language child would understand, but she is as much English as Swedish.

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