An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta

Department of Education and Science

 

Evaluation of English as an Additional Language (EAL)

 

REPORT

 

De La Salle College

Churchtown, Dublin 14

Roll number: 60310E

 

Date of inspection: 21 November 2008

 

 

 

 

 

Evaluation report on English as an additional language

Whole-school support and provision for EAL

Planning and co-ordination

Teaching and learning

Support for EAL students

Summary of main findings and recommendations

 

 

 

 

REPORT ON PROVISION OF ENGLISH AS AN ADDITIONAL LANGUAGE (EAL)

 

Evaluation report on English as an additional language

 

This report has been written following an evaluation of provision for students learning English as an additional language (EAL) in De La Salle College, Churchtown. It presents the findings of the evaluation of provision, teaching and learning of EAL and makes recommendations for the further development of EAL in the school. The evaluation was conducted over three days during which the inspector visited support and mainstream lessons and observed teaching and learning. The inspector held meetings with the principal and with groups of teachers and students, and reviewed school planning documentation, teachers’ written preparation, and students’ work. Following the evaluation visit, the inspector provided oral feedback on the outcomes of the evaluation to the principal, deputy principal and EAL teachers. This report forms part of the evidence base for a forthcoming composite report on EAL provision in primary and post-primary schools, intended to inform Department of Education and Science policy and to promote good practice in schools.  The board of management of the school was given an opportunity to comment on the findings and recommendations of the report; a response was not received from the board.

 

 

Whole-school support and provision for EAL

 

De La Salle College was founded in 1952 as an academic school for the education of Christian boys. The college is non fee-paying and offers the established Junior and Leaving Certificate programmes and the Transition Year (TY) programme, which is compulsory in the school. The school does not participate in the Delivering Equality in Schools (DEIS) scheme, but has a home-school-community-liaison (HSCL) co-ordinator. The school enrols students from the nearby locality and further afield.

 

The school has a population of 322 students. One fifth of the school’s population is made up of EAL students and close to thirty per cent of these students are receiving EAL support. The school has an allocation of two whole time equivalent (WTE) teachers for EAL teaching which suggests that over twenty-eight students are receiving EAL support. However, this is not the case as only twenty students are currently in receipt of EAL support. In order to warrant this two teacher-equivalent allocation, the school should immediately increase the number of students it gives EAL support to; this is possible given the current situation where not all students eligible for EAL support are receiving such support.

 

Valuable procedures are in place to ensure a positive transition for students into the school. An open day is held in the school each November which is very good practice. All feeder primary schools are visited by the first-year year head and the deputy principal to gather information on the abilities and needs of incoming first-year students. This is also good practice. These students are tested prior to entry to the college using a general assessment in Irish, English and Mathematics and a reading test. A formal meeting of parents of all incoming first-year students is held in the May prior to entry. First-year students are well inducted into the college. Incoming first years participate in a football blitz in the October preceding commencement into first year and in an ‘activity day’ in the college in the June preceding commencement into first year, at which time they meet their future fifth-year mentors. A rugby camp is organised for all first-year students prior to the opening of the school year which acts as both an introduction to rugby and to fellow classmates. Such activities provide valuable assistance to the students as they make the transition to secondary school. These activities also serve the purpose of helping to identify students with English language difficulties. First-year parents are also invited to a social evening in September which is organised by the Parents’ Association.

 

The year head and deputy principal are responsible for placing students in appropriate class groups. Further assessment of students is carried out in September of first year. At this time, students with English language difficulties are interviewed to assess their language skills using the Integrate Ireland Language and Training (IILT) interview assessments. This is good practice. The names of EAL students are communicated to staff via the staff notice board in the first term.

 

Students are placed in one of two set groups on entry into first year and these groups are further subdivided into three groups for English, Irish, Mathematics and Science to create smaller class sizes. These four subjects are concurrently timetabled to allow for movement of students between classes. In addition, it was reported that year heads regularly review placement of students to ensure that they are accessing the curriculum at an appropriate pace. EAL students are generally placed in the second set on entry into first year and in the lowest ability group for English, Mathematics and Science if they have poor proficiency in English.  Placement in these smaller class groups is an advantage to those EAL students who have little or no language proficiency as they can get more individual attention. It was reported that these students are monitored and are moved to a more appropriate class group if necessary.

 

The EAL allocation of two whole time teacher equivalents (WTEs) is currently not being used appropriately and is not meeting the needs of all students in need of EAL support. It was reported that currently there are a small number of students with English language difficulties who need EAL support and are not receiving it. Furthermore, EAL support is only given to students in junior cycle. This means that EAL students who enter the school in senior cycle do not receive such support.  The allocation is mainly used to create the additional third class group for English, Mathematics and Science in each year of junior cycle. Only some of the allocation is used to timetable EAL support classes and these support lessons are timetabled opposite Irish in first, second and third year. This means that EAL students in need of language support receive four EAL support lessons each week. Individual teachers have given of their own time to teach some of the individual students who are not receiving regular allocated support in English. In addition, senior cycle EAL students may attend EAL support lessons for junior cycle students. This, however, is not appropriate as good practice dictates that students should be placed in age and ability-appropriate class groups for EAL support. A wide range of language ability is to be found in each EAL support lesson and while this means that students with good proficiency in English are able to help those with poor proficiency it does not challenge the more proficient students and makes it difficult to differentiate the work to suit the various ability groups.

 

The approach to provision for EAL students in the school is not as flexible as it could be. Currently, the EAL teacher teaches a discrete class group of students at the time that junior cycle Irish lessons are timetabled. The size of these groups ranges from five to nine students and often these students have different needs and abilities. Furthermore, there is a small number of EAL students in the school who have Special Education Needs (SEN). Support for SEN students is also provided at the same time as Irish and therefore support in the two areas clash on the timetable. Circular 0053/2007 provides for a high level of flexibility in devising the most important manner of supporting these students and the college is urged to review its current system of support with a view to more appropriately supporting all EAL students with language needs. For example, consideration should be given to full immersion for students with poor English language proficiency for an initial period and to timetabling more than one EAL class group in each year to cater for EAL students of different abilities.

 

Despite the allocation of two WTE teachers for EAL, the EAL teaching team consists of one teacher who teaches all EAL support classes. This teacher and the SEN co-ordinator form the core EAL team. Because of the small size of the school, communication between the two members of the team and with other stakeholders is largely informal. EAL, therefore, falls under the remit of SEN when it fact it should be decoupled from this and form a distinct department.

 

The EAL teaching resource has experience of Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) in another jurisdiction. There is a commitment to the EAL students and a willingness to pursue appropriate courses to further professional development and experience in the area of EAL. It is suggested that consideration be given to joining the English Language Support Teachers Association (ELSTA). As yet, no continuous professional development (CPD) has been provided by management for the whole staff in teaching EAL students. Given the sizeable cohort of student in the college with English language difficulties, senior management should immediately source and provide such CPD for all teachers so that a whole school approach can be taken to provision for these students.

 

As there is just one teacher involved in the delivery of EAL, the co-ordination of the subject falls to this person. It is suggested that consideration be given to making the EAL co-ordination role a post of responsibility or part of a post of responsibility to give more status to EAL provision in the college.

 

All students are offered the same choice of subjects in De La Salle College. The Muslim religion was nominated in Religious Education for the special study topic. Students are also facilitated to sit their home language in the Leaving Certificate state examinations where possible and Applied Mathematics is provided after school for those students who may wish to access this subject.

 

Classrooms are teacher based. The college has a very well developed library and a school-funded librarian runs this library. It was reported that many EAL students access the library to borrow books which is good practice. There is also a computer room in the school and a well resourced learning support room. Internet access is available in most classrooms. The EAL classroom contains a computer, data projector and printer, all of which were funded by the teacher. So too were the majority of literary resources used. This is evidence of the commitment of the EAL teacher to the students. However, in order to support EAL in the school, a budget should be set aside for EAL to fund appropriate resources. As it stands there is little whole-school support for EAL and both senior management and the board of management should set this as a priority area for immediate development by the college.

 

The inspector found little evidence of the use of bi-lingual dictionaries in mainstream or EAL support lessons and it was reported that students are reluctant to use dictionaries. Given students’ entitlement to use these dictionaries in most subjects in the state examinations, it is recommended that such use become a requirement of all mainstream and EAL lessons and that these dictionaries form part of the book list for EAL students.

 

 

Planning and co-ordination

 

The college does not have an Admissions Policy. Instead, the current ‘Intake Policy’ was ratified in January 1996 and states on page one: “The College does not refuse admission to pupils of lower academic standard but it must, because of staffing and facility constraints, limit the number of places available to such pupils”. This line and policy must be changed immediately as it is in contravention of much of the legislation in relation to education in recent years and is exclusive.

 

In enrolment, preference is given to boys in the following order: brothers of current pupils; relations (sons, brothers or nephews) of past pupils; boys from local feeder schools (listed); boys from other schools. It is recommended that the list of local feeder schools be numbered in ranked order. The overall ‘Intake Policy’ should be revisited and redrafted with a view to making it more equitable and to making it an Admissions Policy.

 

There is no specific policy in the college relating to provision for EAL students. However, the college’s ‘Identifiable Educational Needs Policy’ has a paragraph on ‘Teaching English to Non-Nationals’. The policy testifies that the college is proud to welcome all students, from whatever background and states that all school policies, practices and the general atmosphere of the school … combine to encourage the participation, integration and attainment of the students. It is recommended that a separate EAL policy be drawn up to include the key components outlined in circular 0053/2007. All relevant stakeholders, including parents and EAL teachers, should be consulted in drawing up this policy. In addition, the policy should outline the role of the language support teacher. Reference should also be made to circular 0053/2007 when defining this role.

 

Other policies developed by the school include those on behaviour, homework and home-school links and these policies have been circulated to parents in English. The college’s Guidance Plan, however, remains a work in progress. The current draft describes the role of the guidance counsellor and describes the guidance programme in the college. The college has an allocation for guidance and counselling of eleven hours and the guidance counsellor is shared with another school. Lessons in Guidance are timetabled on a modular basis for TY groups and on a weekly basis for sixth years. No specific reference is made to EAL students in the Guidance Plan and this is an area that should be addressed. The website http://www.euroguidance.net/index.htm may be a useful resource for guidance counsellors when communicating subject choices to EAL parents and students.

 

There is good collaboration within subject departments to ensure that teachers are all following the same course at the same time to facilitate movement of students and this is good practice. While subject department planning has commenced, there was little evidence of all the subject departments communicating their plans to the EAL teacher. It was noted that communication between the EAL teacher and some subject departments, for example Science, was good but this was not always the pattern. Currently, a challenge for the EAL teacher is to know what topics to teach in EAL support lessons. A system of communicating planning between mainstream and EAL lessons needs to be put in place. Planning this way, perhaps on a half term or six weekly basis, would allow the EAL teacher to co-ordinate the curriculum with the mainstream teachers and better facilitate access to the subject for EAL students.  A copy of all subject plans should be given to the EAL teacher. In addition, the subject teachers should have copies of the language profiles of EAL students. While planning for students of different abilities was found to be good in mainstream lessons, there is also a need to support the language proficiency of EAL students in these lessons. Furthermore, as part of the planning meetings facilitated by management, it is suggested that each subject department draw up a list of key words pertaining to their subject area and pass these on to the EAL teacher.

 

Subject planning and EAL support lesson planning should focus on the acquisition of learning outcomes for all students and in particular for EAL students. This would allow for the identification of key vocabulary and key concepts that need to be taught.

 

There was evidence of very good profiling of each individual student receiving EAL support and that the language proficiency benchmarks are used in assessing students. Students are retested to ascertain their improvement in English over the course of the year. This is to be commended. It is recommended that EAL support lesson planning should focus on developing skills in reading, writing, speaking and listening among the EAL students.

 

 

Teaching and learning

 

Four mainstream lessons and three EAL lessons were observed during the course of the evaluation. In all instances, the purpose of the lesson was communicated to students. Explanations were clear. Active learning was a feature of some of the lessons observed. Very good practice was seen when students were put in pairs to work on particular tasks and when key concepts or meanings were put in context for students to ensure understanding. It was evident that students are used to working together to help each other.

 

Good use was made of the board in many lessons to record key points made by students. However, when teaching key vocabulary in EAL support lessons it is recommended that these words be written on the board. Good use was made of handouts in lessons to aid instruction and worksheets were provided for students. ICT was used as a demonstration medium in two lessons observed. Appropriate use was made of English language websites to test students’ vocabulary through a cloze test. In another lesson, the overhead projector was used appropriately as a demonstration and recording medium and key words were displayed in this way. In this instance, the use of very good probing questions ensured that the students had a complete understanding of these key words.

 

Best practice was seen when the teachers’ pace of speech was appropriate and clear. Teachers were generally affirming. Very good individual attention was given to all students and it was evident that some teachers made good efforts to include EAL students.

 

Questioning was generally good although, in some instances, the teacher looked for ‘hands up’ as opposed to naming students to answer questions. When students are named to answer questions there is a better chance that EAL students will participate in the lessons and this was observed in some lessons. Very good practice occurred when the teacher asked a range of questions from lower to higher order to include all students. In addition, good practice was seen when the teacher allowed appropriate time for students to answer questions.

 

It is commendable that the language of instruction was the explicit focus of EAL lessons. This meant that vocabulary appropriate to the subject was discussed and explained to ensure that students could access the particular subjects discussed. In addition, good practice was seen when students put key vocabulary into sentences to ensure understanding. There was a strong focus on accessing appropriate vocabulary in these lessons. It is recommended that more attention be paid to the oral and written extension of students’ vocabulary and that more attention is also given to teaching writing skills in both EAL support lessons and mainstream English lessons. In this regard, students could be encouraged to develop a portfolio of their writings in EAL lessons.

 

There was evidence of a print-rich environment in some but not all of the teacher-based classrooms visited. It is recommended that key words pertaining to the subject be displayed in all mainstream classrooms. In the EAL classroom, some translations of greetings in students’ home languages are on display. This is good practice. Other key vocabulary and some samples of students’ work should also be displayed.

 

A range of work was seen in students’ copies. It is recommended that more written feedback be given to students on this work and that students’ copies be monitored more frequently. Very good practice was seen when the teacher checked students’ copies to ensure that they had taken down their work correctly and were on task. Copies are maintained by students for their EAL support lessons and there was evidence within those copies of support given in a range of subjects. It is further recommended that students be given more practice in developing their writing skills in these lessons.

 

In all lessons, there was clear evidence of learning. In general, there was good differentiation of tasks to cover all ranges of ability. In some instances, however, it was clear that some EAL students had more ability than their peers within the same class group and this led to situations where some of these students became distracted as they finished their tasks sooner. Furthermore, some EAL class groups contained students whose first language was English as well as students who had little or no English. This has an implication for the placement of students in both mainstream and EAL support classes. Care must also be taken to ensure that all students are provided with enough work to keep them occupied. In one EAL lesson, where a very wide range of abilities was evident within the group, some third-year students were permitted to continue with their homework and one-to-one help was given to a non-third-year student who had no English. The placement of this student was not appropriate in this EAL support class. In addition, other students should not be allowed do their homework in class even if supported in this work by the teacher for a portion of the lesson.

 

It is college policy that students speak English outside class contact time. However, when students of the same language can assist each other in lessons, some use of the home language is permitted. In addition, students were encouraged to write meanings of words in their home language if this was deemed appropriate. This is appropriate practice.

 

Parents of all students in the school receive school reports four times a year; at Halloween, Christmas, Easter and summer. It is suggested that EAL students receive a mark or comment on progress in their EAL lessons in these reports. A parent-teacher meeting is held for each year group in the school. It was reported that not all parents of EAL students attend or that in many cases a sibling who has English will attend with the parents. Consideration could be given to using visual or translated prompts at these meetings. The IILT Resource Book (2007) may help in this regard.

 

No student sits foundation level in English in state examinations. There was evidence that EAL students achieve well and have received many prizes in the annual prize-giving ceremony.

 

 

Support for EAL students

 

The pastoral care structure in the school is led by form teachers and year heads and supported by the school care team. Each class has a form teacher and each year group has a year head. The care team, which meets on a needs basis, consists of the principal, deputy principal, home-school- community-liaison (HSCL) co-ordinator, guidance counsellor and special needs co-ordinator. Individual year heads, teachers or form teachers may be co-opted onto the care team if a particular issue arises. The care team meets to investigate the case of vulnerable students referred to it by any member of the team or by another member of staff. Much anecdotal evidence was given of interventions by the care team for students in the college including interventions for EAL students. The relatively small size of the college enables a high level of knowledge of each individual student’s needs and this is considered a strength of the college.

 

The school operates a mentor scheme whereby a group of fifth-year students acts as a support group to first years. Throughout the year the mentors organise sports and social events. Good practice also takes place in that a homework club is in operation in the school where targeted homework assistance is given by a teacher and TY students to younger students. The TY students do this work as part of their Gaisce award. Supervised study is also offered in the school for third and sixth years.

 

The student council in the school consists of fifth and sixth-year students only. It is suggested that the staff give further consideration to allowing other year groups to join the council also. EAL students may participate on this council just like other students. Likewise, many EAL students act as prefects.

 

Although there are currently no parents of EAL students on the Parents’ Association, they have the same opportunities to join as other parents. A useful ‘Information for Parents’ booklet is distributed to all first-year parents and includes some key policies including the Code of Discipline. It is recommended that efforts be made to make this document more accessible to parents of EAL students, maybe by providing a translation or by making the English less difficult. It was reported that the nearby Mosque in Clonskeagh provides translators on occasion and that the HSCL co-ordinator is planning to publish information sheets introducing the college in the ‘mother tongue’ of EAL students. This is to be encouraged.

 

The HSCL co-ordinator has a role in liaising with parents of EAL students including making home visits. Efforts have been made to run English language classes for parents during the day but these were not well attended. There are plans to set up English language support lessons in the college in the coming term and the HSCL co-ordinator also arranges classes on other topics for parents. Other useful links with the general parent body include coffee mornings for parents.  

 

A good range of extra-curricular activities is provided by the college and there was evidence that many EAL students participate in these activities. It was reported that more than half of the EAL students are actively engaged in extra-curricular activities including rugby, basketball and Gaelic and that such involvement in sport helps students to integrate very well. EAL students are also involved in chess each day in the library as well as table tennis.

 

Overall, while there is good support for all students in the school, there are few specific supports for EAL students and few specific activities to celebrate the culture of EAL students, although during the sixth-year end-of-year Mass, prayers are said in the home languages of the students. The school also provides a classroom with prayer mats for Muslim students. In addition, Muslim parents have put on a feast for staff. Consideration should be given to hosting a multi-cultural day or some other activities for these students in keeping with circular 0053/2007 which states that “pupils should also be encouraged and facilitated in maintaining a connection with their own culture and language through curricular activities and displays”.

 

 

Summary of main findings and recommendations

 

The following are the main strengths identified in the evaluation:

·         All incoming first-year students are well inducted into and familiarised with the college prior to entry.

·         EAL students are facilitated to sit their home language in the Leaving Certificate state examinations where possible.

·         The college has a very well developed library and a librarian is employed to run this library.

·         There was evidence of very good profiling of each individual student receiving EAL support and that the language proficiency benchmarks are used in assessing students.

·         There is good collaboration within subject departments to ensure that they are all following the same course at the same time to facilitate movement of students.

·        The quality of teaching and learning was good in lessons observed. The purpose of the lessons was communicated to students and explanations were clear. Very good

      individual attention was given to all students and it was evident that some teachers made good efforts to include EAL students.

·         ICT was used very well as a demonstration medium in two lessons observed.

·         The language of instruction was the explicit focus of EAL lessons. Vocabulary appropriate to the subject was discussed and explained to ensure that students could

      access the particular subjects discussed.

·         There was very clear evidence of learning in all lessons.

·         Parents of all students in the school receive regular school reports.

·         There was evidence that EAL students achieve well and have received many prizes in the annual prize-giving ceremony.

·         The relatively small size of the college enables a high level of knowledge of each individual student’s needs.

·         The college operates a mentor scheme and also a homework club.

·         There was evidence that many EAL students participate in the range of extra-curricular activities offered by the college.

·         There is good support for all students in the college.

 

 

As a means of building on these strengths and to address areas for development, the following key recommendations are made:

·         The allocation for EAL students is not being appropriately used. In order to warrant its two WTE teacher allocation for EAL, the college should increase the number

      of students it gives EAL support to.

·         The college is urged to immediately review its current system of EAL support with a view to providing more suitable support for all EAL students with language needs

      at both junior and senior cycle and using its allocation more appropriately. For example, consideration should be given to full immersion for students with poor English language

      proficiency for an initial period and to timetabling more than one EAL class group in each year to cater for EAL students of different abilities.

·         CPD should be provided in the area of EAL for the whole staff.

·         A budget should be set aside for EAL to fund appropriate resources.

·         The use of bi-lingual dictionaries should become a requirement of all mainstream and EAL lessons and these dictionaries should form part of the book list for EAL students.

·         The overall ‘Intake Policy’ should be revisited and redrafted into an Admissions Policy with a view to making it more equitable and in line with education and equal status legislation.

·         EAL should be decoupled from SEN to form a distinct department with a distinct co-ordination role. It is recommended that a separate EAL policy be drawn up to

      include the key components of such a policy as outlined in circular 0053/2007 and that all relevant stakeholders including parents and EAL teachers be consulted in

      drawing up this policy. In addition, the role of the language support teacher should be outlined in this policy.

·         A system of communicating planning between mainstream and EAL lessons needs to be put in place. In addition, the subject teachers should have copies of the

      language profiles of EAL students. A copy of all subject plans should be given to the EAL teacher to allow for planning to support the curriculum in EAL withdrawal lessons.

·         EAL support lesson planning should focus on developing skills in reading, writing, speaking and listening among the EAL students and key words pertaining to the subject should

      be displayed in all classrooms.

·         Third-year EAL students should not be allowed do their homework in EAL support classes.

·         The college should make explicit efforts to celebrate the culture of EAL students.

 

 

A meeting was held with members of the EAL teaching team, the principal and deputy principal following the evaluation when the draft findings and recommendations of the evaluation were presented and discussed.

 

 

 

 

Published May 2009