Community Village


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group of students clustered round a teacher
Author: Jane Bryan, ESOL specialist

Moving to and joining a new school is daunting for any child. It is essential that schools have procedures in place to support new arrivals with this transition (discussed in detail in our article here). However, it is important to consider that their parents may also be experiencing a similar transition, without necessarily having a network of support. If support is not provided, there is the potential for parents to struggle to access education, find employment and be part of the school or wider community. This is acknowledged on the UK Government website, ‘Low English language skills are the main barrier to employment and integration’ (2023).

An effective way for schools to provide support and empower parents of learners with EAL (English as an Additional Language) is to run ESOL (English For Speakers of Other Languages) classes within the school for parents.  ESOL classes in schools can be a lifeline for parents; classes can cover language that is needed to be able to function well in an English-speaking context, or more powerfully, to navigate school as well as daily life, enabling them to feel part of the school and local community.  For more information about the difference between EAL and ESOL see this blog post.

A major challenge for parents of EAL learners is supporting their children with school work – this can be because they are ESOL learners themselves or they are unfamiliar with the English education system (or even education systems in general).  As identified by Evans et al (2016), ‘parents of pupils with EAL, especially those who have low levels of English and/or are new to the English school system, face a range of specific barriers including a lack of understanding of the English school system and, therefore, face difficulties in supporting children with things such as homework and assessment tasks.’

Providing parents of EAL learners with the opportunity to learn English within the school context (and therefore enabling them to support their children’s learning) is invaluable; classes that teach not just the functional and survival English that parents need in everyday life, but also the English they need for communication within schools and to support understanding of the curriculum is so important. The added support can give parents an understanding of the strategies and language needed to teach phonics, reading, maths and other curriculum content. This provides parents with not only the language but also the confidence they need to offer support to their children’s education.

Parent ESOL classes should not only aim to develop language skills, but also to build confidence in engaging within the community. Classes enable learners to foster relationships with other parents and the wider school, which in turn improves the integration of families in the local communities. When learners improve their English and gain skills to speak and write confidently, they can progress to further learning opportunities or finding work, and develop better social relationships. 


Evans et al: Language development and school achievement, Opportunities and challenges in the education of EAL students, 2016., 2023

Further learning - Blog

Created: Mon 13th Nov 2023

Learners may have difficulties expressing their own ideas, thoughts and feelings.

Tip or Idea: Name the emotions. Use puppets, flashcards or simply hide and uncover your own face. Who can be first to name the emotion? Extend by giving a reason why e.g. He is happy because…

Learning Village resource: Feelings Snakes & Ladders game - land on a picture. Describe it and move forward 1 space! (I am happy when…/I am sad when…/I am shocked when…)

Created: Wed 7th Feb 2024

Learners with speech and language difficulties may find it difficult to use the correct tense or find it hard to understand the concepts of time.  

Tip or Idea: Take 5 minutes to chat together at the end of a busy day or lesson. Talk about what you did, what you enjoyed or what made you laugh. This gives learners the opportunity to practise using the past tense and maybe time and order words too like first, next and then

Created: Wed 10th Jan 2024

There is no denying that in the 21st century, teachers have gone from strength to strength in using technology in the classroom and this has changed the classroom landscape significantly. The digital age has introduced new avenues to explore for learning and teaching beyond the traditional classroom methods.