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‘High Flying’ English as an Additional Language pupils excelling at Bethany School

Nicola Rendall-Jones, Head of EAL (English as an Additional Language) at Bethany School, tells of the challenges that EAL pupils face and how they excel at overcoming them.

At Bethany there are opportunities to study three different modern foreign languages: French, Spanish and Mandarin. These undoubtedly present challenges at GCSE and at A-level for the pupils who choose to take them. However, our international pupils are not just studying English as an Additional Language but every subject in a language which is not their native tongue. Imagine the challenge!

In consideration of this challenge let’s look at a recent maths question at GCSE:
(a) Factorise d^{2} – e^{2}d2–e2
(b) Hence, or otherwise, simplify fully
(x^{2} + 8)^{2} – (x^{2} – 4)^{2}(x2+8)2–(x2–4)2

To answer this requires a minimum of three steps:
1. Read the question.
2. Understand what you need to do.
3. Write your response.

For an international pupil there are two more steps:
1. Read the question.
2. Translate it into your first language.
3. Understand what you need to do.
4. Consider your response in your first language
5. Write your response in English.

Here is an A-level biology question in Mandarin.

For Nicole W, currently studying A-level biology at Bethany, this is the script of her first language. When considering the level of challenge our EAL students face daily, I am sure you would agree that learning a range of subjects at GCSE, BTEC and A-Level, makes our international pupils High Flyers.

“However, having English as your second or even third language does not prevent our EAL pupils from participating in and contributing to the varied life at Bethany.”

For example, during the recent Open Day, Wilson L and Valeria M were two of the excellent tour guides, showing parents and their children around the school and answering questions, eliciting praise for their fluency, confidence and comprehension.

Theo L and Dio Z have faced the shouts and the opposing team’s boots and tackles when playing rugby for the school.

Ethan L is one of the sixth form assistants helping pupils in the gym during Thursday Enrichment sessions.

In order for EAL pupils to go to university in an English speaking country, they need to pass their A-levels or BTECs, exactly the same as the other pupils at Bethany, but in addition, they must pass an exam to assess their level of English. This exam is called IELTS – International English Language Testing System. Every University course requires a minimum level of IELTS for the pupils to gain before they will be accepted onto their chosen course. IELTS tests the pupils’ listening, reading and writing skills in a grueling three hour exam and then their speaking skill in an interview. Congratulations to Nathan Y, Edwin L and Kelvin C who recently took their IELTS exams and achieved the grades they needed to go to the university and take the course of their choice.