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English As An Additional Language

What is EAL Support?

EAL applies to all children for whom English is not their first language. Support is available for a wide range of EAL needs, from those who have just arrived in England with little or no understanding of the language, to those who are fluent at communicating verbally in English but whose written expression is not at the same level as a native speaker. If your child’s native language is not English it is essential that you find a school that will provide the support he or she needs to be able to integrate socially as quickly as possible as well as excel in the curriculum.

How do schools cater for children with EAL?

Some private prep schools will require a minimum level of English to consider a child for entry, whereas others will consider children who need a high level of language support. In some cases EAL is provided as in integral part of the curriculum, particularly where there are a large number of children for whom English is not the first language. Otherwise EAL lessons are provided as a chargeable extra and often take place before or after school. A school accepting children who need English language support should have a clear policy on how they will provide for them. 

What questions should I ask schools about EAL?

* How do they recognise and develop the skills and knowledge that speakers of other languages already have?
* Do they employ specialist EAL teachers?
* When do EAL lessons take place and are they charged as an extra?
* Are children prepared for standard English Language Exams, eg Cambridge PET and FCE?
* How are children helped to access the curriculum in regular lessons? (differentiated teaching, additional resources, supportive feedback, high expectations etc)
* What numbers of international students are in the school and where are they from? You will not want to send your child to a school where he or she will be part of a large group of children all speaking the same foreign language. The key to rapid success in learning English is to mix with English-speaking children.

A good prep school will want to be sure that it can meet the needs of every child, and they will want to assess your child’s level of English before offering a place. This is generally done by means of an entrance test and interview (which can be done over Skype if you are based outside the UK).

Common Entrance for speakers of other languages

It is recognised that children for whom English is not a first language will be at a disadvantage in the highly competitive Common Entrance exams, and therefore special provision is made for such children. They may be given additional time and can take a slightly different selection of papers. For more information see the Independent Schools Examinations Board website

We are happy to advise you if you need further information about schools that offer EAL support or to be put in touch with a tutor who can help your child prepare for entry to a UK private school. Call +44 (0) 1622 813870, request a call back, or complete our Enquiry Form.

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