Success in helping students learn English as an additional language

Specialist English as an Additional Language or Dialect Education Leaders are meeting the needs of students, teachers and principals.

Image: EAL/D Education Leader Raylene Park (left) with Birrong Girls’ High School Principal Zena Dabaja

A strategy employing specialist EAL/D Education Leaders to improve the learning outcomes for students learning English as an additional language or dialect (EAL/D) has shown some early successes.

Paul Wood, Executive Director, Educational Standards at the NSW Department of Education, said a recent evaluation showed principals and teachers welcomed the strategy, with around 650 schools participating in more than 300 professional learning sessions and the creation of a broader professional learning community.

“By focusing on providing high quality, evidence-based professional support and advice for school leaders and teachers, we’re aiming to increase their capacity to address the English language, literacy and learning needs of EAL/D learners, including recent arrivals and students from refugee backgrounds,” Dr Wood said.

The strategy has seen 30 EAL/D Education Leaders, experienced specialists with qualifications in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL), based in 29 schools in areas of high EAL/D education need.

The Leaders have been responsible for planning, implementing and evaluating ways to improve EAL/D student outcomes in a local network of schools, with more than 200 support plans put in place.

“Our recent evaluation showed that most school leaders expressed confidence in the overall quality of support and that EAL/D practices in their school had strengthened as a consequence,” Dr Wood said.

“Over 70% of school staff also believe that the support provided by EAL/D Education Leaders in 2021 has been valuable for their school.”

Where their base school already had strong EAL/D practices, the Leaders devoted most of their time supporting other network principals and schools.

At Birrong Girls High School, principal Zena Dabaja said Education Leader Raylene Park, who was based at the school, identified that the school was doing best practice and worked with other schools in the network to make welcome improvements.

“This was an effective strategy from our perspective. Raylene’s proactive approach helped build sound teaching practices across all stages and all learning areas which helped improve student outcomes,” Ms Dabaja said, noting that EAL/D methodology helps improve students’ ability to understand content no matter what the subject area.

Ms Dabaja said the strategy allowed for more individualised attention for students who most needed help.

Principals involved with the strategy were impressed by the EAL/D Education Leaders’ credibility and specialist knowledge, how they were driven by excellence, worked seamlessly with others across the school and network, and were adaptable and flexible.

The evaluation of the EAL/D Education Leadership Strategy can be viewed on the Department’s website.

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