Known as the EAL department, which stands for ‘English as an additional language’, we offer both language and pastoral support to girls for whom English is not their mother tongue, or who have been exposed to major influence from another language. We also support girls who are full or overseas boarders and would benefit from advice from another dedicated adult.
Our aim is to help the girls concerned to feel secure and comfortable while at St Swithun’s, especially when they first arrive, and to go on to maximise their academic achievement.
Initially, the girls are given a lesson every week where we get to know them and help them with any worries, which are usually easily solved. There are also a range of social activities to help the girls integrate into the school. We assess the girls’ English skills where appropriate and, in consultation with them, build a programme of weekly study to develop, consolidate, and extend their linguistic fluency, which we sustain throughout their time at the school. We keep in close contact with other academic and pastoral staff, who let us know if particular problems arise for which girls need specific help.
Practical areas in which we support girls range from increasing their awareness of cultural expectations of behaviour and language use, to taking them to register their passports with the police if they need to.
The department is careful to get to know the girls well and to respond sensitively to their needs and concerns. Typical lessons start with a few minutes' chat to make sure that all is well; this talk is also used to monitor girls’ fluency in spoken English.
Individual learning programmes may include any of the following:
• Explorations of the formality of language expected in different situations
• Reading for comprehension
• Vocabulary extension
• Grammatical exercises and explorations of how languages work
• Support for particular curriculum subjects, such as GCSE English
• Cultural awareness activities
• Study of topical issues through newspaper articles
• IELTS classes to prepare girls for university entrance
We are particularly keen to learn about the girls’ own cultures and to celebrate them as we help them to enjoy their life at St Swithun’s. Equally we aim to be sure that their English skills are enhanced by the time they leave the school, particularly in reading and writing, so that they can use English confidently as they meet the demands of the adult world.