Supporting Children Learning English As An Additional Language

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Supporting childrenlearning English as anadditional languageGuidance for practitioners in the Early YearsFoundation Stage

Supporting children learningEnglish as an additional languageContentsIntroduction2The importance of home languages4About learning English as an additional language4Bilingual support6Theme: A Unique Child7Theme: Positive Relationships 10Theme: Enabling Environments 12Theme: Learning and Development 14References and further reading 19NoteBoth parents and carers of children are included in the term ‘parent’ where used in this booklet.00683-2007BKT-EN Crown copyright 2007 Supporting children learning English as an additional languagePrimary National Strategy

IntroductionThere are increasing numbers of children entering Early YearsFoundation Stage (EYFS) settings for whom English is not thedominant language in the home. Many practitioners in settingsacross the country already work successfully with children andfamilies who speak languages other than English. For some therewill be one or two language groups represented in their setting;for others the population may be linguistically and culturally verydiverse. For growing numbers of settings, providing care and learningopportunities for children and families new to English, or at variousstages of proficiency, is a new experience.Practitioners in every setting want to ensure that their provision matches the development and learningneeds of all their children. This advice and guidance booklet is drawn from existing good practicedeveloped by practitioners working with babies, young children and their families.This guidance is set within the themes, principles and commitments of the EYFS and should be read inconjunction with the Principles into Practice cards.Following the introductory key messages the booklet is set out under the four themes offering extended‘Effective practice’, ‘Challenges and dilemmas’ and ‘Reflective practice’ sections for: A Unique Child Positive Relationships Enabling EnvironmentsFor the theme of: Learning and Developmentthe ‘Effective practice’ section is further broken down into sub headings.The principles of good practice for children learning English are the principles of good practice for allchildren. Effective practitioners include all children by meeting their needs. However, the skills, knowledgeand understanding of children learning English as an additional language (EAL) are often underestimated.This makes it more likely that they will be vulnerable to poor Foundation Stage Profile outcomes and somemay find it more difficult to achieve the Every Child Matters outcomes than their monolingual peers.Although many children from EAL backgrounds who have poor outcomes at the end of the FoundationStage go on to become among the highest achieving children, there are also many who do not catch up.The children learning EAL who are most vulnerable to poor outcomes at the end of the Foundation Stageand beyond are usually those with the least experience of being in an Early Years or Foundation Stagesetting. Some of these children will be newly arrived to England, but many more will have remainedat home because – for whatever reason, either through choice or lack of appropriate and accessibleinformation – parents have not taken up the offer of free education for three- and four-year-old childrenbefore statutory school age. Supporting children learning English as an additional languagePrimary National Strategy 00683-2007BKT-EN Crown copyright 2007

The EYFS framework requires all settings to ensure that there is equitable and inclusive provision for allour children. To enable practitioners to meet this requirement local authorities (LAs) will need to carefullyand thoroughly plan, deliver and monitor the impact of all training and support.Before children and families can benefit from the high quality provision being developed within eachLA they have to be accessing that provision. It is for LAs to ensure not only sufficiency of places,but accessible information that reaches those most in need of support. For those families who havepreviously found access difficult, and have therefore been in some way excluded, it is vital that potentialbarriers are recognised at every level so that they can be overcome.The Early Years Outcomes duty, placed on all LAs as part of the Children Act, requires them to addressthe gaps in achievement between different groups of children at the end of the Foundation Stage,measured by the Foundation Stage Profile outcomes. For many LAs, children for whom English is anadditional language form an increasing percentage of the lowest achievers at the end of the FoundationStage and these LAs will need to take specific action to support them in order to close the gap.All LAs should have a policy for community cohesion and engagement, part of which will address the needsof young children and their families for whom English is an additional language. The Inclusion Report, SureStart for Everyone, suggests strategies that LAs could adopt to improve the engagement of families whomight feel excluded from early education opportunities. This report, in common with the practice guidancefor Gypsy Roma Traveller families, and the Children’s Centre toolkit, stresses the importance of culturalrelevance for all families to ensure that they feel that settings are places where they can feel comfortable,respected, valued and included. It is recommended that this guidance is read within the context of theseother materials supporting practitioners to meet the needs of the communities they serve.The guidance will give a breadth of advice and support for practitioners working with children from birthto the age of five. It is to be remembered that children within this broad developmental span can beanywhere along the continuum of language development in one or more languages, from babies whoare experimenting with sounds, to sophisticated and articulate children who can converse in one or morelanguages. Some will be beginners in one language but proficient in another; others will be at varyingstages of fluency in one, or more than one, language.Key messages in the document echo and complement the National Strategies guidance for supportingthe learning and teaching of bilingual children in the primary years.The term EAL recognises the fact that many children learning English in settings in this country arealready developing one or more other languages and are adding English to that repertoire.00683-2007BKT-EN Crown copyright 2007 Supporting children learning English as an additional languagePrimary National Strategy

The importance of home languagesKey principleBilingualism is an asset, and the first language has a continuingand significant role in identity, learning and the acquisition ofadditional languages.It is widely accepted that bilingualism confers intellectual advantages and the role of the first language inthe child’s learning is of great importance. Children need to develop strong foundations in the languagethat is dominant in the home environment, where most children spend most of their time. Home languageskills are transferable to new languages and strengthen children’s understanding of language use.Developing and maintaining a home language as the foundation for knowledge about language willsupport the development of English and should be encouraged. Insistence on an English-only approachto language learning in the home is likely to result in a fragmented development where the child is deniedthe opportunity to develop proficiency in either language. The best outcome is for children and theirfamilies to have the opportunity to become truly bilingual with all the advantages this can bring.Home languages are also vital for maintaining positive family connections. It is therefore very important tomaintain the language of the home, particularly where older family members who care for children do notspeak English. Otherwise this may mean that eventually they are no longer able to have proper meaningfulconversations with each other.Parents who cannot share thoughts and ideas with their children will inevitably lose the ability to shape,guide and influence their lives. Situations where this has happened have been documented, and shownto have negative social outcomes for communities because children have lacked the guiding hand of theirelders.Practitioners have a key role in reassuring parents that maintaining and developing their home languagewill benefit their children and support their developing skills in English.About learning English as an additional languageKey principles Supporting continued development of first language and promoting the use of first languagefor learning enables children to access learning opportunities within the EYFS and beyondthrough their full language repertoire. Cognitive challenge can and should be kept appropriately high through the provision oflinguistic and contextual support. Language acquisition goes hand in hand with cognitive and academic development, with aninclusive curriculum as the context.Research over the past two decades into the language development of young bilingual learners hasresulted in a number of theories and principles about children learning EAL in settings and schools. Supporting children learning English as an additional languagePrimary National Strategy 00683-2007BKT-EN Crown copyright 2007

Theories that underpin approaches to supporting children learning EAL emphasise: the importance of building on their existing knowledge about language; the impact of attitudes towards them personally and their culture, language, religion and ethnicity ontheir learning and their identity.Some important issues are as follows: English should not replace the home language; it will be learned in addition to the language skillsalready learned and being developed within the language community at home. Children may become conversationally fluent in a new language in two or three years but may takefive or more years to catch up with monolingual peers in cognitive and academic language. Children learning EAL are as able as any other children, and the learning experiences planned forthem should be no less challenging. Additional visual support is vital for children learning English and using illustration and artefacts willalso support and enhance the learning experiences of their monolingual peers. Many children go through a ‘silent phase’ when learning a new language; this may last for severalmonths but is not usually a cause for concern and is not a passive stage as learning will be takingplace. Children will usually understand far more than they can say. Understanding is always in advance of spoken language and it is important that children do not feelunder pressure to speak until they feel confident. It is, however, essential that adults continue to talkto children with the expectation that they will respond. Adults and children should respond positively and encouragingly to children’s non-verbalcommunication. As they observe, listen and explore the setting, children will be applying the knowledgethey already have in their new context. As they start to echo single words and phrases, joining in withrepetitive songs and stories, their attempts should be sensitively encouraged and praised.00683-2007BKT-EN Crown copyright 2007 Supporting children learning English as an additional languagePrimary National Strategy

Bilingual supportKey principleSecure and trusting relationships with a key person are vital to a child’s development in all areas.Bilingual support is a highly desirable resource but it has to be accepted that appropriate firstlanguage support may not be available for all children in all settings all the time.An increasing number of maintained schools and settings, particularly children’s centres, have outreachteams which may include bilingual practitioners, community officers or assistants. LAs may also haveteams offering support in home languages from staff with appropriate Early Years qualifications who areable to work effectively with young children and their families across a range of settings. These teams aretypically part of Ethnic Minority Achievement Services or Inclusion teams within Children’s Services, EarlyYears or School Improvement teams.Even where there are not yet dedicated Early Years staff there will usually be interpreting and translationservices within the LA, which families and practitioners in all settings can access. Practitioners shouldfind out what support is available to them and their children’s families; LAs should ensure that they areproviding sufficient and appropriate support. Early Years advisers will be able to signpost practitioners tothe appropriate services.As the population becomes more linguistically diverse so the profile of bilingual teachers and otherprofessionals in Early Years and childcare increases at all levels of qualification and professionaldevelopment. Many experienced practitioners in settings across the sectors in maintained and nonmaintained provision will themselves be bilingual and will bring their own personal and professionalexperience to supporting the achievements of young bilingual learners.Sharing a language with a child or a family does not by itself qualify someone to be the most appropriateperson to support a child or a family. Practitioners should do everything they can to ensure thatappropriate support is found by consulting with community groups and support services such as EthnicMinority Achievement (EMA) teams, Traveller Education Services (TES) and Refugee and Asylum Seeker(RAS) support groups.The following key points summarise why, where possible, it is important to seek bilingual support: Children who speak little or no English at home may be at a disadvantage when they enter an EarlyYears setting without some support in the language with which they are most familiar. To deny children the opportunity

Language acquisition goes hand in hand with cognitive and academic development, with an inclusive curriculum as the context. Research over the past two decades into the language development of young bilingual learners has resulted in a number of theories and principles about children learning EAL in settings and schools. 00683-2007BKT-EN Supporting children learning English as an additional .

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