I am writing to you as both a concerned teacher and parent. Your recent decision to remove the post of lead inspector for EAL and Gypsy Roma Travellers (GRT) will essentially put these key groups at risk. As I am sure you are aware there are over 1.6 million EAL / GRT children in our schools. They do a fantastic job of adapting to their new surroundings and education system. Your decision to remove the post of inspector for EAL / GRT will unfortunately have grave consequences for them in our schools. I urge you to reconsider your decision or clarify how you will ensure that these groups’ needs are met!
Working as an EAL Coordinator in a large secondary school with a high proportion of EAL students (66%), I can see how your support of EAL / GRT children is needed. Nowadays, it is a real struggle to support them as schools focus on other key groups who constantly make national headlines such as SEND or disadvantaged boys. Yes, these groups are important but aren’t EAL / GRT important to? Often misleading data suggests that EAL students make better than expected progress, but is this the same for all EAL children? EAL children are an extremely heterogenous group. Is it fair to put a child who has recently arrived in the country with little English as a child who was born and raised here but speaks a language other than English in the home? Not really! Children that have been educated in the UK system are at a significant advantage to those newly arrived children. All benefit from specific EAL strategies and approaches that develop both language and content simultaneously.
Our multilingual and multicultural schools should be something we are proud of and embrace as a country. Many of the children I teach and support have come to the UK for a better life and education. They deserve the best possible education and this will be made all the more harder if schools feel that you will not inspect provision for EAL students. It is already difficult to raise their profiles in schools because you do not recognise their languages or their cultures. Bringing these elements of our EAL students into our schools will make our schools much better places to live and learn in. Valuing EAL students linguistic and cultural capital is something I place great importance on and I hope you do to.
Your inspections of EAL help to support EAL students and those of us that work with them to ensure their needs are closely monitored and met in our schools. What will happen now? Will they be forgotten, part of yet another lost generation or part of a group that will make national headlines in the future because ‘we have failed our young ethnic minority, EAL and GRT children?’ I sincerely hope not!
Please reconsider your decision or clarify how you will ensure that EAL students are given a fair right to inspection as everyone else in our education system.