Supporting an EAL Beginner

A student joined my school a couple of weeks ago in Year 8 (12 – 13 years old). In her admissions interview her mother told us at her school the teacher just used to leave the class alone. The student cannot read and write in her first language (L1) which is Gujarati. She cannot do basic maths operations such as adding or subtracting. This became evident when I asked her to complete a Maths and English assessment I do with all new admissions to the school. She found it very difficult to access. This post will journal what support we have put in place for her so far – she will be called Student A.


Student A is on a bespoke timetable. She goes to some lessons (PE, Art, Design/Technology, Enterprise) and registration. She spends the rest of the time with my team and I in the EAL department. At break and lunch time she socialises with her buddies and some friends she has made.

What are we teaching her?

I’m using the Racing to English scheme of work from Gordon Ward. The scheme has a range of resources and focuses on oral language development first. It also includes lots of repetition which is really helpful for Student A. This has been going quite well and she has made lots of progress. Although she cannot read any of the sentences, she can do some writing. This is because some of the writing resources use scaffolds such as substitution tables, matching pictures to words, and word searches. Topics include: classroom objects, colours, parts of the body, animals, and foods. After each section you can assess understanding through scaffolded assessment tasks.

In terms of supporting her to read, I have tried the Racing to English scheme. However, I’ve switched to more of a school based phonics approach e.g. we are learning the different sets (set 1: s,a,t,p). It’s early days with this but some progress is being made.

In terms of writing skills, getting her to learn how to form letters is essential as she cannot do this yet. We have handwriting worksheets for this which I got of the internet. I’m also teaching her the alphabet.

We also play lots of games together such as junior scrabble – I think it’s a good game for letter recognition.

One of my TAs is teaching her maths. She’s learning to count but has only made limited progress in adding. This is a cause for concern and something we are monitoring.


Student A’s buddies are from her form group and speak Gujarati. We prepared them before about how to support her and she is quite confident at getting around the school.

We also use the Young Interpreters scheme at my school and they are also on hand to support students such as Student A.

Health and Wellbeing

She seems quite happy at school. Her buddies have been supportive showing her around the school. In lessons she seems keen to learn and happy.

Next Steps

We continually evaluate Student A’s progress and think very carefully about when she should return to more mainstream lessons. This is very difficult at the moment not only because of her language proficiency but cognitively she also seems quite immature so to speak. She has been on the bespoke timetable for 2 and a half weeks and it will continue for at least another 2 weeks.

In summary

Student such as Student A pose massive challenges to schools but I Iove the challenge of supporting her. Ensuring she feels safe and comfortable in school is really important.


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