English as an Additional Language
The Advantage of Bilingualism
At St Mary’s Catholic High School, we warmly welcome students who speak English as an additional language; in other words, those students whose mother tongue is not English, and who operate at home in more than one language. Over 40 different languages are spoken by students at our school.
Many modern language researchers agree that not only does speaking more than one languages help us to communicate with a wider range of people, but bilingualism (or multilingualism) brings a number of distinct advantages in terms of how our brains develop. In the process of switching between languages, bilingual students develop enhanced brain function, or the ability to more effectively manage higher level cognitive processes, such as problem-solving, analysis, extensive memorization, and abstract thinking. Over time bilingual learners develop greater intellectual plasticity. This phenomenon is known as the 'bilingual advantage'.
Key Stage 3 Provision
Students who are new to English and new to the country, or who are bilingual and have weak literacy skills in English, are given intensive literacy support in nurture groups. When they have achieved the required level of English, they are moved into higher sets. The emphasis is on developing sound writing skills, confident speaking and listening and reading with understanding, expression and accuracy. The core curriculum offer is as follows:
Students are taught the following punctuation and grammar:
- Full stops and capital letters
- Commas, colons and semi colons
- Nouns, pronouns and prepositions
- Adjectives and adverbs
- Prefixes and suffixes
- Spelling rules
- Simple and complex sentences
- Literary devices: similes, metaphors, alliteration and onomatopoeia
Students are also taught key aspects of:
- Descriptive writing
- Discursive writing
- Short story writing and
- The writer’s craft, i.e. how writers use language to create specific effects.
Students have one hour of reading per week in the library. Within a few weeks of arrival, after students have had time to settle themselves, we test their reading age and assign reading levels. Students then choose books from the appropriate level. Students who are at the very early stages of acquiring English, and are literate in their mother tongue, are encouraged to read dual language books and to read in their mother tongue. When students complete a book, they take an online test to assess their level of reading skills. Reading ages are assessed twice a year. Students also have the opportunity to develop their reading skills in groups of up to five students with an EAL teacher as part of a guided reading programme. In this case, students all read the same book at the same time; taking it in turns to read out loud; read together (choral reading); and follow as the teacher reads.
Year 9 students will also read a simplified version of a Shakespeare play as well as a 19th century text as part of the nurture group English curriculum.
Speaking and Listening
Students are expected to be able to make a simple presentation to their class, individually or as part of a group. They are taught how to shape their views, project their voice and articulate a point of view.
For those students new to English and new to the UK, for a fixed period of time they are withdrawn for individual, or small group, language support work for one or two lessons a week. Our aim is to ensure they have the core language skills to be able to interact socially, keep themselves safe and understand basic classroom language. A range of resources are available, such as dual language dictionaries and English language acquisition software programs.
The students are also allocated a buddy to help them find their way around the school for the first few weeks.
In-class support is also provided by the Head of EAL and an EAL teaching assistant, who work alongside the nurture class teachers, to enable EAL pupils to access the curriculum.
Key Stage 4 Provision
As per Key Stage 3, nurture classes also operate for students in Year 10, but not Year 11. The emphasis in Year 10 is developing the skills, knowledge and understanding to gain GCSEs in English or Cambridge IGCSE, Maths and three other subjects. Induction provision and in-class support are also available.
Parents: 7 Keys to Success!
1. Ensure your child reads a novel or non-fiction book EVERY day for at least 30 minutes. (Encourage them to join your local library, as well as use the school library, and give book tokens, Kindles. etc. as gifts).
2. Provide age-appropriate dual language films, i.e. with the sound in the home language and the subtitles in English and vice versa.
3. Sit with them and listen to a radio station with lots of talk and interviews, etc. in English (e.g. Radio 2 or Radio 4).
4. Encourage them to complete their homework (the EAL department will assist with homework completion at lunchtimes or after school).
5. Encourage them to revise using these websites:
For 'ixl.com', which focuses on Maths and English, most secondary students who are new to English, will need to start at primary levels for English and work their way up. It’s very common for students new to English to be very able in Maths, so these students can start at secondary levels. 'Little bridge' is a great programme for students and parents or carers to learn English together.
6. Encourage the development of their first language and English by encouraging them to use both languages at home and at school.
7. Reward and praise their success!