support in the classroom

Various models of additional support for EAL learners, particularly beginners, are used in UK schools. These include:

  • in-class support from additional adults (teaching assistants, bilingual assistants, parents)
  • peer support
  • short-term intervention (for induction programmes, additional language or literacy teaching).

Teachers may also get additional support from professional networks and local community organisations.

Additional adults

It is very useful for teachers to have the support of additional adults in the classroom, particularly when working with beginner EAL learners. These might be specialist EAL teachers, teaching assistants (TAs), bilingual teaching assistants (BTAs), parents or other community members.

Specialist EAL teachers usually use a partnership teaching model. This means joint planning and delivery of the lesson. The advantage of the partnership teaching model is that the EAL specialist teacher models teaching and learning strategies so that the mainstream teacher becomes more confident about considering the language content of the curriculum when planning, and more used to employing teaching and learning strategies that support the language development of EAL learners. Some local authorities have EAL consultants who can offer partnership teaching in schools. 

Currently most schools do not have specialist EAL teachers, but many have teaching assistants (TAs) and/or Higher Level Teaching Assistants (HLTAs). The main focus of TAs is  to support learners with special or additional educational needs, but many also work with EAL learners who do not have SEN. Other schools have specialist EAL TAs and HLTAs. To be most effective, all additional adults should have access to training about the needs of EAL learners so that they can support the mainstream teacher in providing effective teaching.

TAs can support EAL learners in class in a range of different ways, for example:

  • pre-teaching key vocabulary before a topic is tackled in class
  • finding appropriate visuals in advance to help EAL learners access the lesson
  • observing EAL learners to feed into mainstream teacher’s assessment and planning
  • providing language models for EAL learners
  • facilitating group work in class – not necessarily the same group each time, and this can be groups that include learners who can provide good models of English
  • contributing towards planning
  • supporting EAL learners’ effective use of bilingual dictionaries and/or translation software
  • giving beginner EAL learners an opportunity to rehearse an answer to a question privately before speaking in front of the class
  • role playing with the class or subject teacher to show what the expectations of a task are – e.g. demonstrating and modelling the expected language for group discussion (What do you think? I don’t really agree with that because …).

In addition to the above, bilingual teaching assistants can:

  • contribute to school awareness of the needs of bilingual learners
  • facilitate appropriate use of EAL learners’ other language skills
  • interpret key words and instructions
  • use first language to explore concepts in greater depth
  • feed knowledge of learners’ understanding of key concepts into the teacher’s assessment and planning
  • facilitate liaison with parents.
For more information about the role of TAs and BTAs see this PDF resource.

Other adults, who have also gone through the usual safeguarding checks, may also be available to support in the classroom or otherwise, for example:

  • parents – particularly in primary schools
  • community volunteers
  • older students – e.g. sixth formers
  • other members of staff – for example bilingual non-teaching staff.

Peer support

Peer support is extremely valuable for EAL learners. It is very important that they spend time with learners who provide good models of English, learning and behaviour. This is one of the reasons why it is important that beginner EAL learners are placed in as high a set as possible. Peer support is also useful for:

  • ‘buddying’ systems for induction of new arrivals
  • paired reading schemes
  • talk partners
  • pairing learners who share a first language so they can discuss a topic in more depth
  • peer mentoring schemes to support learners who are being bullied.


If a small group, withdrawal model is used it is important that work done outside the classroom is closely linked to the curriculum.