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Supporting multilingual children in the John Wallis Primary Academy


The John Wallis Primary Academy is a place of vibrant, diverse community. Our pupils come from various backgrounds and unique cultures. Many children who learn English as an additional language already speak more than one language. There are currently 20 different languages spoken within our Primary Academy adding richness to our school’s dynamic life.

The main focus of English as an Additional Language (EAL) support is to help the children master the academic language that they need to access the National Curriculum. This support is then gradually withdrawn as the child gets more and more proficient in the English language and is able to participate in the classroom independently. All children learn at a different pace so some pupils will become independent learners sooner than others.

Learning a language takes time. Our little learners not only have to master talking in English but they have to learn through the English language to be able to access the National Curriculum.

There is a wide range of support available for EAL children within the Primary Academy whether they are beginner English speakers or advanced English language learners.

The EAL Teaching Assistant works closely together with the class teachers and class teaching assistants. Some EAL children are supported in the classroom by the EAL Teaching Assistant or they are taken out of class for EAL lessons to address the child’s specific needs.

Classroom support consists of making sure the pupil understands the teacher's explanations, any new vocabulary or unknown words.  Afterwards, they receive help with completing tasks.

Sometimes children are taken out of class for EAL lessons. Depending on the pupil’s needs, they will either work in a group or have 1:1 lessons with the EAL Teaching Assistant. These lessons are carefully planned not only to develop the pupils’ English language skills but to match the work in the mainstream classroom as well. This way when the child goes back to the classroom, he/she will be able to apply their newly acquired knowledge immediately.

If a new EAL child arrives at the Academy without being able to speak English, they are given intensive support straight away. It is vital that the new pupil feels secure, safe and happy from their very first day. That is why the EAL Teaching Assistant supports them in class and takes them out of class for EAL lessons every day. In addition, the class teacher and teaching assistant work hard to help the child settle and include him/her in the life of the Academy as much as possible from the very first day. Usually, the new EAL child is assigned a ‘buddy’ as well, who looks after him/her, making sure that those scary first few days go smoothly. Initially, if the child is literate in their own language, the use of dictionaries and translation websites is encouraged to aid understanding and to speed up the English language acquisition process.

If the new EAL child possesses some English language knowledge then they are usually given a week to settle within their classrooms to get to know their teachers, classmates and the routine of the Academy. After about a week their English language abilities are assessed by the EAL Teaching Assistant using the Kent Steps Assessment which tests listening and understanding, speaking, reading and writing skills in the English language. After the assessment, targets are set for the individual needs of the child and EAL support is put in place if necessary. The pupils’ progress is regularly monitored and their needs are carefully met. Their English language levels are tested three times a year to make sure they are getting the right support.

Learning English as an additional language requires the learner to translate from the English language when it comes to understanding and responding to questions and completing tasks. Therefore, in the mainstream classroom EAL learners are given a few seconds longer to process new information to be able to give an answer in an unfamiliar language.

Functioning in a different language on a daily basis, especially when that language is new, is extremely tiring. For this reason, EAL pupils are being supported in the mainstream classroom in the mornings and they are given small group work or one-to-one lessons in the afternoons in the form of games and practical tasks. This way they are able to practice their new language in a natural and relaxed atmosphere.

Furthermore, The John Wallis Primary Academy organized a Cultural Awareness Week last year, where all classes had to research a different country and produce a poster of the information they found out. All EAL and English pupils were involved in this research and they produced some amazing posters. The event was a huge success and the children were very proud of their work.

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