A recent report from The Bell Foundation has found that children with English as an additional language (EAL) experienced language learning loss as a result of Covid-19 lockdowns. Over two-thirds of teachers surveyed reported a negative impact on the English language skills of children who have EAL following the disruption to education caused by Covid-19.
The Bell Foundation’s report is based on a survey of teachers conducted in March 2021 which aimed to identify and understand the extent and nature of English language learning loss for pupils who use EAL based on teachers’ observations of pupils’ interactions, work and behaviour in class following periods of lockdown.
The key finding was that, of teachers who were able to report on the impact on the English language skills of pupils who use EAL, 74% of primary teachers and 59% of secondary teachers reported observations of language loss in one or more language skill areas.
The report also highlighted issues with children’s confidence after periods of lockdown as a result of not having the opportunity to practise their English. 22% of secondary and 15% of primary teachers surveyed reported that their pupils who use EAL had lost confidence to speak to their peers or in class.
Teachers also stated that children with EAL didn’t have as much access as their peers to online and home-learning during lockdowns, resulting in learning loss. For example, children whose parents also don’t have English as a first language may not have been able to help with home-schooling during school closures. According to teachers, the family’s proficiency in English had a significant impact on the language and learning loss of pupils who use EAL, particularly for primary pupils.
Some teachers reported that children with EAL were less likely to access online learning at home. One in twelve teachers reporting language and learning loss in pupils using EAL thought that they had been explicitly disadvantaged compared to their English-speaking peers due to the challenges of remote learning.
Here at Jacari, we have heard similar anecdotal evidence from teachers at our partner schools in Oxford and Bristol. One teacher told us:
"Due to school closures, many of our EAL learners are no longer immersed in the English language at school. We have definitely noticed when speaking to the children, their English has been massively affected. A child we spoke to recently was unable to recall simple vocabulary that he was more than capable of using a few months ago. It is essential for their learning that they have as much interaction as possible from teachers and tutors to ensure that their English is recalled before it is lost."
Jacari volunteer tutors have provided valuable support to children with EAL during lockdowns, with regular video lessons helping them to practise their English language skills and build their confidence. They’ve also supported their pupils to keep up with school work and remote learning, as well as being a friend and mentor to talk through any problems they are having. This aspect of Jacari tuition has been so important during a period when children are increasingly socially isolated.
This new report by the Bell Foundation, along with the feedback from teachers at our partner schools, demonstrates how extra tutoring such as that provided by Jacari volunteers is vital to ensure that children with EAL don't get left behind with their education.