EAL sector within the UK

The following pages aim to give an overview of the regional and local context and background of migration in the UK and the different education systems in which international migrants will find themselves.

EAL learners in the UK experience a wide range of contexts in UK schools, from rural schools with very few EAL learners, to urban schools with almost 100% EAL learners. Some will be educated in state schools supported by local authorities, other in academies, free schools and private schools. Some schools have an EAL department with trained teachers and bilingual specialists, others have access to local authority specialist teams, and others to very little input at all. The skills and experience of mainstream teachers in meeting the needs of EAL varies enormously. What is common to all the four nations is an increase in the number of EAL learners.

These pages introduce some of the key facts and figures about migration at the present time, highlighting the demographic variation and changes in migration patterns in all four nations of the UK  in the last twenty or so years.

If you want to find out more about the similarities and differences of the education systems in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland you have come to the right place. We have also gathered together a summary of key policies relating to EAL learners in each nation.

Here you will find links to the school inspection bodies and to other key organisations which provide guidance, training and advocacy on behalf of teachers and other staff working with learners of English as an additional language.


International migration to the UK has been happening for thousands of years. Many of us have a non-British ancestor somewhere in our family history.

This section of the website gives a brief overview of the different stages of education in the UK overall and of the key differences in the education systems of the four nations of the UK.

The four nations have slightly different curricula, formal assessment systems, teacher standards and policies relating to EAL learners.

Ofsted is the Office for Standards in Education in England. During school inspections Ofsted inspectors will look at the progress and attainment of vulnerable groups, including EAL learners. 

Find out more organisations that are focused on EAL learners in England, Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland.

In England the department for education publishes statistics about attainment nationally, regionally and at local authority level broken down by ethnicity and other pupil characteristics such as EAL.