Excellence for students learning English as an additional language or dialect

Teaching and learning adjustments are required for your EAL/D students, as English language competence is essential for full engagement in schooling and to ensure equitable learning and wellbeing outcomes.

Image: High school students in an EAL/D class

EAL/D students are those whose first language is a language or dialect other than English and who require additional support to develop proficiency in Standard Australian English (SAE).

EAL/D students may include:

  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students
  • immigrants to Australia and temporary visa holders from countries where English is not spoken
  • students with a refugee background
  • children born in Australia of migrant heritage and where English is not spoken at home
  • English-speaking students returning to Australia after extended periods in settings where English is not spoken
  • children of deaf adults and for whom Auslan is their first language
  • international students from countries where English is not spoken.

Other terms:

  • LBOTE - students from a 'language background other than English'
  • CALD - culturally and linguistically diverse families or communities, including LBOTE.

Policy and context

The Multicultural Education Policy is implemented by all schools with the support of English as an additional language or dialect: EAL/D advice for schools. English language competence is essential to fully engage in schooling, achieve equitable learning and wellbeing outcomes, and participate successfully in our culturally and linguistically diverse society.

The policy requirement for schools to provide specific teaching and learning programs to support the particular learning needs of targeted students from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds (CALD) is supported by the Australian Professional Standards for Teachers (1.3.2):

Proficient teachers ‘design and implement teaching strategies that are responsive to the learning strengths and needs of students from diverse linguistic, cultural, religious and socio-economic backgrounds’.

Your EAL/D students require adjustments to teaching and for learning, and these depend on the developmental stage of the student, the stage of learning, the key learning or curriculum area, the level of English proficiency and other capabilities and circumstances.

For all syllabus documents, NESA refers specifically to adjustments for EAL/D learners. Teachers report to parents and carers on EAL/D student English language proficiency using the EAL/D Learning Progression as specified in the Curriculum Planning and Programming, Assessing and Reporting to Parents K-12 Policy standards. Further advice can be found in English as an additional language or dialect: EAL/D advice for schools.


Understanding EAL/D student performance

Every school has a unique student cohort and potentially a diverse range of languages in their school community. Each year your school completes the EAL/D Annual Survey indicating the current ACARA phase of English language proficiency for each of your EAL/D students. Your data informs the CESE annual language diversity in NSW bulletin:

infographic showing cultural and linguistic diversity NSW government schools 2019
Image: Cultural and linguistic diversity in 2019

EAL/D students enter Australian schools at different ages and stages of schooling and at different stages of English language learning. They have diverse talents and capabilities and a range of prior learning experiences and levels of literacy in their first language and in English.

For some of your students, school is the only place they use Standard Australian English.

When your EAL/D students are learning subject content, in any school setting, they are simultaneously learning a new language and the knowledge, understanding and skills of a syllabus through that new language.

They require additional time and support, along with the support of specialist teachers, informed teaching by all of their teachers to explicitly address their language needs, and assessments that take into account their developing language proficiency.

The identification of each and every one of your EAL/D students’ English language learning needs is vital to planning for explicit teaching that will ensure you are able to provide equitable learning and wellbeing outcomes for all of your students.

Understanding student performance requires an understanding of the complexity of each student’s needs. For example, an EAL/D student may also:

  • have high potential, be gifted or highly gifted in intellectual, creative, social-emotional or physical domains (note that some standard assessments may contain cultural bias)
  • be an Aboriginal student who uses an indigenous dialect, Aboriginal English, or another form of non-standard English, as their main dialect
  • have additional needs due to disability and/or difficulties in learning
  • be newly arrived in Australia with limited English proficiency, requiring supports for language acquisition and transition to a new country and culture
  • have a refugee background, requiring supports for language acquisition, transition to a new country and culture and targeted support to address trauma.

Learn more

Find out more about School Excellence in Action.

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