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MagratheaDoes your school have an independent EAL Department?
Or is it part of SEN?
Are there any benefits to a separate department?
Ours doesn't; in fact many schools that I've either visited or worked in don't have EAL as a separate department. Our MFL and EAL departments are integrated, which seems to be common in this region, and the HoD for MFL holds responsibility for EAL; they're usually the EAL co-ordinator.
As for EAL being part of the SEND department; I don't think that EAL should be classified as a SEN because it's more to do with Language acquisition, but that's not to say that it doesn't happen this way. EAL is regarded as intervention at my school as to whether or not this is common to many schools, I couldn't say.
Where I work in the USA it's essentially illegal to have EAL considered part of the SEN department. I do work with kids who have SEN, but when we write their IEP each year (Individualized Education Plan) the EAL support is mentioned almost as an aside. In the past too many schools with little experience of EAL kids were shunting them off to the SEN teachers.The law now requires us to have at least one EAL professional (teacher or tutor) if there is even one EAL kid in the school and makes it clear that kids cannot be denied EAL support because they are EAL, nor should they be offered SEN support if their only issue is EAL. My work still comes under the umbrella of the 'Pupil Services' director, who is responsible for all the SEN provision in my school district. That seems to be the case in many of my colleagues in other schools too. We are often a department of one person within the larger Pupil Services group. In larger districts there is an EAL department. Occasionally the EAL teachers are part of the MFL department.
I find being lumped together with the SEN staff is quite helpful. I share an office/tiny classroom (aka windowless storage conference room) with the speech pathologist - and we often borrow ideas and teaching materials from each other. I share the same frustration as the SEN staff in figuring out how to make my job work - for e.g. deciding how much to pull kids out of class to work with them, when staying in the room often means being an overpaid TA.
EAL is not SEN, unfortunatelly in many mainstream school in the UK EAL learners are considered as EAL. For example, I have recently seen an AD for the post of SEN Teacher of Literacy and Language and when I called the school, it actually turned out that they were looking for a teacher who can help children with poort expressive and receptice skills in English, which is EAL.
Well, EAL isn't a specific learning difficulty, but it is a special education need.
It can be useful to have EAL and SEN specialists in the same department because some children making slow progress with English might be doing so because they have a learning difficulty as well - but, often slow progress will be attributed to a language difficulty. I used to teach a Slovak boy who had been learning English for three years but was making very slow progress, but teachers just assumed he would eventually 'get' English: turned out he had dyslexia. So for three years he wasn't getting the support he needed.
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