Supporting advanced learners of English as an additional language (EAL)

Who are advanced learners of English as an additional language?

An Ofsted research into writing at KS2 and KS4 shows a mismatch between oral and written fluency:

“Advanced EAL learners are defined as pupils who have had all or most of their school education in the UK and whose oral proficiency in English is usually indistinguishable from that of pupils with English as a first language but whose writing may still show distinctive features related to their language background.”
Possible prior attainment characteristics of this group of EAL learners
  • Just achieving Level 4 at KS2; may struggle to achieve Level 5 by the end of KS3 (thus unlikely to achieve 5+ A*–C including mathematics and English at KS4)
  • Achieving Level 4+ in mathematics and science but not in English at KS2; able pupils who may struggle with language demands of secondary curriculum
  • Attaining Level 5 at the end of KS2 but making little or no progress by the end of KS3
  • Late arrivals whose KS2 results were depressed by a lack of experience in English but make rapid progress (often securely literate in first language)
Why focus on this group?

New arrivals only form 5 to 10% of the EAL population of England. The remaining 90–95% are far more likely than the new arrivals to be able to achieve the benchmarks of level 5+ at Key Stage 3 and 5 A*–C grades (including English and mathematics) at Key Stage 4.

Support strategies for this group of EAL learners

The National Strategies resource “Ensuring the attainment of more advanced learners of English as an additional language” (2009) contains useful advice on a range of activities and approaches and can be downloaded from the links on the right hand side of this page in its entirety.

These approaches benefit both advanced EAL learners and monolingual English-speaking pupils alike with increased engagement in lessons, improved use of the more formal register required for academic writing and better knowledge of a range of genres. Although the resource has a secondary focus, much of it is equally suitable for pupils at Key Stage 2 and EMTAS Specialist Teacher Advisers have developed training for primary phase teachers as well as secondary practitioners.

Feedback from pupils and schools where EMTAS Advanced EAL Learner sessions have been delivered

Following a short series of inputs in a secondary school, school-based staff identified the following benefits to their students

  • model answers showing the difference between a grade C and an A* at GCSE were explicitly taught
  • the characteristics of a good answer were clearly identified
  • strategies to support students’ understanding of text in spite of difficult words were shared and discussed
  • students were supported to find their own words to use in their answers
  • the students learnt some useful new words such as 'incentive' 'drastic' and 'proactive' which none of them knew before the session.

As one advanced EAL student said after the session, "I gained knowledge from that!"

To find out more about how the advanced EAL learner programme could work in your school, contact

Learning materials

Further information

The National Strategies, secondary: Ensuring the attainment of more advanced learners of English as an additional language