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Learning to teach children from all backgrounds

Here in our Department of Secondary and Further Education, we’re dedicated to giving students a well-rounded experience in schools that prepares them for teaching young people from all backgrounds. One of the best tools to add to your belt as a trainee teacher is the ability to adapt your teaching to meet the needs of those with English as an additional language (EAL) – because accessible learning is better learning for all.

Senior lecturer Paul Smalley facing camera stood inside faculty building

In order to provide real-world, practical experience in which to practise these skills, Paul Smalley, one of our senior lecturers, alongside our partnerships team in the Faculty of Education, organised a specialist EAL experience visit for our final year students.

This visit was hosted by one of our partner schools, Blackburn Central High School (BCHS) – a wonderfully diverse setting where students from a range of backgrounds bring their multiple languages with them into the classroom.

The day began with a welcome from an Edge Hill alumnus and current BCHS teacher, spoken in Quechua – a language unfamiliar to the students on the visit. This allowed students to step into the shoes of an EAL speaker, allowing them to experience some of the emotions and feelings of confusion that they may face.

Jackie Davies, Lead of Inclusion for EAL and Whole School Literacy at BCHS, gave the students some insight into how the school supports their EAL students. Pupils are categorised so that they receive tailored levels of support to help them access the curriculum. Visual cues and repetition are used often, and pupils are encouraged to continue learning their own language as well as English. Jackie inspired students with some of the strategies she uses to teach those with EAL – and how these can be really useful for English speaking learners too.

Next up was EdTech expert, Reuben Robertson – another of our very own alumnus – who showcased some ways in which technology can make learning more accessible. He introduced students to tools like Mega Seating Plan, Google’s translation tools, and a programme called Mote which uses phonics to teach vocabulary to EAL learners.

Blackburn Central High School logo

“We at BCHS had a wonderful day welcoming Edge Hill students into our diverse and inclusive school. We love to share our passion and knowledge of EAL in order to equip the next generation of teachers with the skills and resources they will need for their future careers in education.”

Jackie Davies, Lead of Inclusion (EAL and Whole School Literacy) at
Blackburn Central High School

The most inspiring part of the day for students was the opportunity to speak to some of the EAL pupils at BCHS and find out a little bit more about their life and schooling from their own perspective. For some students, stepping outside of their comfort zone and hearing about some of the challenges these students face was eye-opening and gave them a lot to think about when planning future lessons.

“The EAL experience day was eye-opening. It allowed us to experience the overwhelming confusion which many of the pupils must experience. The most important part of the day was conversing directly with EAL pupils. This is because the pupils were able to explain their personal experiences directly; we were able to learn their history and reasons for leaving their home country. This experience allowed me to see that it is not simply about a change of language for these pupils, but a change of life.”

Chelsea Bloor
Secondary English Education with QTS

“Our visit to BCHS was fantastic! We learnt so much about how to ensure our teaching is as inclusive as possible. The staff at BCHS went above and beyond to demonstrate a number of teaching and pastoral strategies that we can use, both in and outside of the classroom. I left feeling inspired and excited to go on placement!”

Ellen Oxton
Secondary Religious Education with QTS

“The day at BCHS provided great insight into the world of EAL pupils at school and gave us a chance to see theory in action. We had workshops with teaching professionals as well as getting a chance to speak to the students and understand their thoughts and feelings. As always, Edge Hill provides us with a multitude of school experiences to prepare us for the world of teaching and education. I ended the day feeling inspired and supported.”

Lauren Edwards
Secondary Religious Education with QTS

January 16, 2023