The course began as a consolidation of our team’s experiences and knowledge gained from supporting schools, training teachers and providing consultancy across phases in the UK and in International school settings. Whether from crossing the floor from the SEN department to head up the Bilingual support team, working as the school SENCO and EAL coordinator, coordinating support for EAL pupils who had EHCPs or Statements of Special Educational Needs as they were once known, or visiting schools to evaluate the needs of pupils causing concern through not meeting targets set nationally or by school leaders.
In leading the course, I do draw heavily on my own experiences gained over 30 years as an EAL and SEN teacher, teacher trainer and consultant. I am also very grateful to my colleague, Sue Smith, who gave me a great template to work from.
The face to face course evolved with each cohort as delegates shared their experiences and practice. For example, a Spanish Educational Psychologist working in an international school shared her technique for administering key assessment tools, a primary SENCO shared her first steps in taking on the additional role of EAL lead and an LA advisor outlined her plans to cascade our training to her schools.
This organic development has transferred in to the online version of the course; in fact, one of the most engaging and rewarding aspects of the course is the sharing of current procedures to identify and support EAL pupils who may have additional learning needs in the course chat forum.
The strategies we share are tried and tested and any new ideas, initiatives or resources are quickly incorporated either in to the course itself or included in the extensive reading and reference list we provide.
We confront the difficult tasks such as how to gather evidence, writing those difficult emails to colleagues stating your position on the needs of a pupil and planning for those awkward meetings where you have to encourage others to take responsibility for the outcomes of the pupils in their class.
We use the UK Special Educational Needs Code of Practice as a reference for pupil entitlement and discuss what that ‘should’ mean for schools.
The course promotes a holistic, inclusive approach to providing support for all pupils and strongly encourages colleagues to move away from the “Is this pupil yours or mine?” conundrum faced by SEN and EAL professionals.
We offer simple screening tests to allay teachers’ fears but also to ensure that neither a pupil’s language needs nor any additional learning needs are overlooked or ignored.
We don’t pretend to offer solutions to every problem; we don’t tackle individual specific learning difficulties as, for example, providing support for pupils on the autistic spectrum requires specialist training. What we aim to ensure is that practitioners identify the varied needs of pupils and provide balanced appropriate support, taking into account both their language needs as speakers of English as an additional language and any additional specific learning difficulties.