EFFECTIVE LEADERSHIP IN EFFECTIVE SCHOOLS: NARROWING THE GAPS TO HELP RAISE STANDARDS FOR PUPILS WHO HAVE ENGLISH AS AN ADDITIONAL LANGUAGE (EAL)
Malini Mistry and Krishan Sood
University of Bedfordshire, UK & Nottingham Trent University, UK
There is a plethora of literature supporting the view that effective leadership drives effectiveness in schools. In such schools, the assumption being that new models and new forms of leadership are likely to lead to improved outcomes for pupils. New models in this context applies to new approaches and new forms of leadership suggest creative approaches. The first part of our research identifies what these new approaches are and what constitutes new leadership. This paper also explores how to narrow identified gaps in EAL practices through monitoring and evaluation in order to raise standards. This research is a comparative study across primary and secondary sectors in England by using qualitative approaches to help gain insight into current good practice and identifying future needs in EAL.
The research conducted by the Institute of Education and Learning Skills Network (TDA, 2009), using multiple methods identified four key priorities for the strategy. Namely:
1. Equip the non-specialist workforce to help EAL learners achieve their full potential
2. Identify EAL specialist roles and equip EAL specialists to enable EAL learners to achieve their full potential
3. Enable the best possible use to be made of EAL specialists and embed collaborative working practices so that all EAL learners have the access to specialist support
4. Ensure that EAL provision is monitored and evaluated effectively, and that it promotes raised achievement.
Our research will focus on key priority number four. The quality of education provision in England is regulated by the Office for Standards in Education (OfSTED). They observed that where schools participate in quality assurance schemes, and are reflective and critically evaluate their practice, the capacity to improve is increased (OfSTED, 2010). Research reported by Mistry and Sood (2010) identified that there were different perceptions of how EAL support should be planned and implemented. Their research findings suggested that good practice existed from schools which: critically reflected on their EAL provision through shared dialogue; provided high quality professional development opportunities for all staff and demonstrated a high drive and passion from the leaders to succeed against all odds.
Through interviews with senior leadership teams and key coordinators, the paper explores how new forms and creative leadership approaches help to monitor and evaluate the EAL pupil provision. The findings of the study indicate that a more systematic approach to monitoring and evaluation is needed; that all staff in all types of schools need a clear understanding of how to meet the needs of EAL children, rather than leaving it to the bilingual staff and specialist teachers.
In conclusion, the research shows that where there is staff diversity, there appeared to be greater cultural and linguistic awareness to better support EAL pupils and their families. The implication for practitioners is the need to be proactive in forming networks with different communities to draw upon for the benefit of the pupils. In addition, all staff need training on data analysis to know how to better target EAL pupils learning and attainment. Further investigation needs to focus on pupils who have not attended formal school in their home country and arrive with no English.
The challenge is to change thinking and perceptions about EAL pupils as underachievers. Longitudinal studies are therefore necessary which systematically track the impact of strategy on EAL pupil achievement. With the workforce remodelling agenda, there are creative opportunities for partnerships to develop new forms of leadership to manage diversity effectively to improve outcomes for EAL pupils.
Key words / phrases:
English as an Additional Language: Leadership and Management: Effective Schools: Raising Standards: Monitoring Impact: Effective EAL Provision: Narrowing the Gaps: Meeting needs of EAL pupils
The educational landscape nationally in England has changed over the past decade. Our schools are now expected to do more in terms of finances and be more creative in managing expensive teachers in some areas of the country where mobility, recruitment and retention offers specific challenges. Schools are therefore becoming ‘new organisations’ or at least thinking in new creative ways because of having to manage new demands brought about by greater central control, greater marketisation, globalisation, and internationalisation leading to competitiveness in order to help them become more effective. They are now more accountable due to the increasing government mandates, regulations and having to manage rapid change and pace through the quantity of reforms. Staff have reportedly commented on the added pressure on them, citing lack of trust and ever more surveillance. Hoyle and Wallace (2005) liken this to a total lack of awareness or appreciation of practitioners and their context in many policy documents. School leaders are seemingly prioritising such local concerns over larger issues and are worried about the welfare of the children in care (Bottery et al. 2009). With rapid changes, comes the diversification of the labour force requiring diversity management which for some leaders is quite a challenge, as they have limited experience of managing diverse staff (Bush and Bell, 2002).
As our pupil population in England becomes more ethnically diverse, at least in the urban regions of the country, we are finding that this is seldom representative at headship appointments. This poses some new challenges for leadership appointment for governors. Lumby et al’s (2004) work showed that diversity management is both a major challenge and an opportunity to maximise diverse skills for diverse pupil population. We argue that the majority of the school leaders are not well equipped through their leadership training to lead for social justice (ibid, 2004). Effective schools require democratic leaders who can demonstrate a multicultural approach to ethical decision-making (Vitell et al., 1993), but this requires a delicate balance between the deontological (sense of duty) and teleological (the result of an action) means to reach a goal of raising standards for pupils who have EAL.
So what are the challenges for schools In England and new innovative leadership in light of EAL provision and its monitoring and evaluation approaches? The purpose of this paper is to present an overview of the current monitoring and evaluation practices in primary and secondary settings in the Midlands area in England. The need arose because the Training and Development Agency (TDA (2009) identified differential approaches to the monitoring and evaluation of pupils with EAL. We are therefore attempting to reflect on such approaches so as to develop a clearer understanding of both monitoring and evaluation tools and its analysis to help schools become effective.
Before we can discuss what is good practice in supporting pupils who have EAL, and how it is monitored and evaluated, it is important define EAL. The term EAL describes pupils who already speak another language and are learning English in addition to this. The Department for Children Schools and Families (DCSFa) (2010) is leading the national Narrowing the Gaps (NtG) initiative in England which is tasked to create strategies to improve the outcomes for underachieving groups. The White Paper, (DCSFb, 2009), emphasises for the first time, the need for schools to provide both personalised and individual support for all pupils. However, this falls short of suggesting exactly how the needs of pupils with EAL is to be met, given the emphasis from Ofsted on narrowing the gaps (2010). The National Strategies (NtG) have identified a number of priorities in their NtG plan to help raise standards for pupils who have EAL. Firstly, it is to support the achievement of pupils who have EAL and children from minority ethnic groups, and secondly, to narrow the attainment gaps for the most financially disadvantaged learners in order to improve outcomes.
The new inspection framework (Ofsted, 2010) in England places judgements on attainment and the quality of pupils’ learning and their progress by looking at outcomes for individuals and groups of pupils. The evidence in the inspection process takes account of any important variations between groups of pupils, and an analysis of the progress of minority ethnic groups. Findings from recent section 5 inspection reports (Ofsted, 2010) suggest that the context of each school is crucial in making informed judgements on raising standards. Contextual aspects like barriers, challenges or advantages of each school are also considered important when assessing a schools’ success in raising attainment and standards.
Bhattacharyya et al’s (2002) study of six schools where Black Caribbean pupils were making relatively good progress examined the factors leading to these schools’ success. It identified the following factors: ‘a strong school ethos based on the expectation that all pupils would strive to achieve their best; strong leadership and strong systems; well-formulated policies that interpreted the school’s values in practical ways; a culture of achievement with high expectations of pupils (pupils respond best in lessons which offer intellectual engagement) and intensive support of pupils; and close links with parents’ (p.22). Bhattacharyya et al. (2002) also identified the ‘importance of monitoring pupils’ progress by ethnicity’ (p.22). A study of successful multi-ethnic schools emphasised strong leadership, an ethos of respect with a clear approach to tackling racism, high expectations and effective teaching as key factors for raising the attainment of minority ethnic pupils (Blair et al. 1998).
Ofsted (2010) offer very similar findings on raising standards for pupils with EAL, but additionally, commenting on outstanding effectiveness due to a more tailored curriculum; professional development of staff; consistency of approach; quality of support and care; a can-do culture; high self esteem; outstanding relationships; respect for each other and effective tracking.
In effective schools, the heart of monitoring and evaluation procedures are, effective structures and systems.
Planned evaluation is characterised by:-
Agreed target areas for evaluation
Explicitness about criteria for the evaluation of success
An evaluation plan which outlines who will collect the data, when and what will be the source of information.
A systematic approach to the collection and recording of information where all involved use appropriate agreed evaluation instruments (Hopkins, 1994).
Effective tracking, consistency of approach and a can-do-culture promoting high-esteem were other indicators of successful school judgements (Ofsted 2009a; Ofsted, 2009b). Recent findings of the attainment of pupils ‘first language’ other than English found that at the end of Key Stage 1 (pupils aged 5-7) and Key Stage 2 (pupils aged 8-11), the gap is narrowing for minority ethnic pupils (Ofsted Raiseonline, 2009: online). In contrast, attainment of pupils other than English for General Certificate in Secondary Education (GCSE) (pupils aged 15-16) 5+ A* to C including functional English and Mathematics had a wider gap.
We present a range of monitoring and evaluation strategies used to assess the progress of minority ethnic pupils. A case study on progress tracking at a High School in Luton demonstrated that tracking of pupil progress as individuals and as groups made them less visible. They used an electronic E mark procedure to monitor pupil progress. Ofsted Ofsted, 2010) reported that, `Emark is a valuable management tool in reviewing the impact of provision for… those with English as an additional language’ (p.25). What remains uncertain is if there is a whole staff understanding of this system, and more importantly, to what extent is there a consistency of approach in its use systematically and methodically between all staff. This requires further analysis of its effectiveness by leaders, or otherwise, of the use of this tool.
A report by Ofsted (2009a) regarding Twelve outstanding secondary schools showed that progress of minority ethnic pupils was not hindered if pupils spoke their first language in the classroom. In fact this spoken language could ‘support academic success’ (p.6). Here, the implication for leaders is to ensure that all staff should promote the highest level of expectations by challenging any assumptions of pupils based on stereotypes of cultures. In addition, leaders also need to question the impact of disadvantaged background, poor linguistic ability or poor attitude to learning, in relation to helping improve outcomes for pupils who have EAL. As the perception of justice significantly influences outcomes, Leung and Morris (2000) suggest that an individual’s cultural background markedly affects one’s opinion about what is fair when making decisions.
A case study on focussed intervention at a high School, Newham, London, involved members of the EAL department monitoring year 7 for two weeks at the start of the year and then feeding their observations into the next school development meeting to inform decisions about planning. They introduced teachers to the relevant data and gave very direct and personal feedback about student capabilities and particular needs (p.45) (Ofsted, 2010). In another study involving children in the nursery curriculum, digital photo displays of their day’s activity were used as visual clues to help children speaking English as an additional language (Ofsted, 2009b).
So, there are numerous strategies identified for effective monitoring and evaluation of pupils who have EAL. Ofsted (2010) recommend robust monitoring and tracking of individuals’ academic, personal, social and emotional progress, which identified shortfalls in performance quickly. They also asserted that ‘high expectations meant that difficulties were not accepted as an excuse for poor outcomes’ (Ofsted, 2010, p.6). The way forward for effective monitoring and evaluation is in schools finding creative and flexible approaches, but more importantly, to encourage a whole staff understanding of data capture and analysis through effective leadership.
The challenge for schools is to know what exactly constitutes ‘appropriate’ data with regards pupils who have EAL, and then to systematically analyse this for support and development of each EAL learner. It also means that such data needs to be acquired at specific milestone dates, like at the end of key stages and transition between primary and secondary phase of education. Many schools are data rich but information poor because of inadequate understanding of data analysis by staff, which is further compounded by limited sharing of information for strategy to improve interventions to raise the attainment. Much of the literature is very sparse on what is good practice in raising standards for EAL pupils, so we are careful in suggesting practices that have pragmatic approaches that reduce practitioner over-load but may have impact on pupil attainment. Could it be, that taking the EAL label away, so that it is not seen as an excuse for underachievement, lead to raising standards?
The challenge for school leaders is to have in place effective monitoring and evaluation processes which shows how the teaching and learning approaches are fit for purpose for pupils who have EAL. This requires all staff to be using such a tool effectively and systematically through leadership drive and support, and in partnership with parents and communities. This is supported by National Strategies (2010) which supports the need for effective monitoring and tracking tools for those identified as having EAL, followed by high quality teaching and support to accelerate progress.
Ofsted (2010) have identified that the very best providers have a range of features like, a positive ethos, welcoming of parents and learners, regular communication with families and learners, and leadership had high expectations and they communicated these to all staff.
Our research was designed to capture a range of perspectives, experiences and perceptions on the provision for pupils who have EAL in the primary and secondary sectors. Our sample group consisted of fifteen primary schools and seven secondary schools, in which over 50 participants were interviewed across the selected schools in the Midlands area in England. In particular, we chose to focus our investigation on schools who supported, directly or indirectly, pupils who have EAL as well as those schools that had virtually no experience of EAL children in order to gain some comparisons. The underpinning research paradigm, therefore, was interpretivist, where the aim was 'to understand the complex world of lived experience from the point of view of those who live it' (Schwandt, 1998:221). The sample consisted of head teachers, and the senior leadership team. The claim here is not one of representativeness, but of attempting to use stratified sample (Cohen et al., 2007:111) of adults' experience to generate insights into the issues linked with raising standards for pupils who have EAL to further develop good practice. We combined and analysed the interview data and survey feedback using qualitative content analysis technique (Miles and Huberman, 1994).
A thematic approach was adopted to analyse the evidence against the research questions. The evidence presented in table 1:1 is under four themes. The data shows aggregated comments from the sample.
Staff Support needed to raise standards for pupils with EAL? How does effective monitoring & evaluation happen? What are the challenges for leaders to help their schools become more effective?
Primary leaders • Need support of experts
• Positive staff attitudes towards pupil differences
• We need a more systematic approach rather than just wait till we have an EAL child with needs.
• Money for training delivered by qualified people.
• Money for specialist resources to use in the classroom. • Clear differentiation in planning.
• Observations in different contexts – including play.
• Tracking pupils in Early Years through their profile.
• Tracking of individual pupils.
• Group tracking of pupils who have EAL.
• Analysing pupils’ work by levelling.
• Challenge of adequate funding for resources and to support good practice.
• Challenge of giving staff the support they need for pupils who have EAL
• Challenge of meeting the needs of pupils who have EAL pupils should remain high regardless of their competency in English.
• Challenge of an effective system to meet the needs of new arrivals.
• Challenge of using play as a tool for monitoring and evaluating the progress of pupils who have EAL just like the Early Years.
Secondary leaders • Remove the EAL label as it can be used as an excuse for under achievement.
• Understand that pupils who have EAL can link and transfer learning quicker than learners of one language.
• Teachers need to learn to use the strengths of pupils who have EAL as a resource.
• Need to recognise that the home language could be the additional language rather than English.
• Staff need to learn to meet the needs of all pupils by understanding how children learn and develop.
• Plan and review support available during lesson time.
• To have high expectations to achieve the task set for all EAL pupils not just the `bright pupils’.
• Staff need to encourage communication with parents to discuss pedagogy at home.
• Analysing a sample of work from EAL pupils regularly.
• Carry out lesson observations.
• Review and feedback on lesson plans.
• End of module tests.
• Need to track 1:1 to ascertain pupil progress in a systematic manner.
• Under achievement is linked to some teachers stereotypical misconceptions leading to lower expectations of EAL learners.
• Not all teachers use data to provide for individual needs
• Need a consistent approach to monitor and evaluate the progress of EAL learners.
• All staff need to meet the needs of EAL learners regardless of their subject specialism
• Importance of carrying out an audit for new arrivals. Appropriate resources for secondary pupils who have EAL in relation to subject specialisms
• To have the opportunity to work with specialist staff regularly rather than when its just a need.
The analysis is based on the sample schools in the geographical area identified therefore the policy of EAL provision in school by each Local Authority (LA) is likely to be different. Early Years practitioners (for children aged 3-5) commented on the freedom they had in planning their Early Years programme, including, the essential role of play in developing the cognitive and language capabilities of their learners with EAL. The secondary school practitioners highlighted the development of subject centred pedagogy being their priority rather than cross—curricular, first hand learning opportunities that formed the basis of primary practice. The support that was available to pupils who have EAL was more focused and systematic in the primary phase (Ofsted, 2010). The whole school approach in developing practice that supported and developed EAL learners was more evident in the primary sector than secondary. Ofsted (2010) commented that ‘pupils learn more quickly when socialising and interacting with peers’ (Ofsted, 2010, p.5), and this has implication for the senior leadership team in planning their budget for deployment of staff. The central support for EAL and more advanced learners of English appeared to be located in different parts of LA which most practitioners in the primary and secondary phases said posed a difficulty, and suggested that both sectors needed quicker access to same central resource centre or centres.
In the secondary sector, there is less opportunity to build personal relationships with pupils who have EAL in contrast to the primary sector because of subject centred silo provision. This implies that not only is the quality of teaching different but also the likelihood of some staff not accurately identifying the potential of such learners. There is also danger of stereotyping on ability of such learners and wrongly labelling them as underachievers. This is supported by Blair et al. (1998) who identified that where there is an ethos of respect, high expectations and effective teaching, then the attainment of pupils who have EAL is raised. Furthermore, Bhattacharyya et al. (2002) suggest that minority ethnic pupils attainment is raised when there is a clear approach to tackling racism.
The White Paper (2009) pointed the need to maintain momentum by building on the achievements of pupils to date, with the National Strategies plan (2009) tasked to narrow attainment gaps for minority ethnic groups, to name one such group. The evidence of our research suggests that Early Year’s practice has embedded the needs of the holistic child as central to its philosophy (DCSF, 2008). This is now being permeated into the primary sector through the new primary frameworks which better highlights meeting the needs of individuals through its areas of learning (QCDA, 2010). A primary teacher commented, ‘with the new primary framework, I have more flexibility to teach through topics which means that it’s easier for me to make links for individual pupils, especially those who have EAL’. This is also echoed in the secondary sector where one secondary headteacher noted that, ‘the raising of standards is a concern because the curriculum does not lend itself to creativity due to subject focused teaching’.
An example of raising standards for pupils who have EAL suggested by a secondary teacher focused on team approach between primary and secondary feeder schools, where they planned the resources required for EAL learners based on identified audited needs, consistent teaching approaches and systematic approach to monitoring and tracking progress of each pupil and in a group. The National Strategies plan (2010) supported this approach adding that schools need to look at different groups within each class and cohort in order to identify significant patterns of learning and weakness. Furthermore, the National Strategies plan (2010) suggest that practices need to improve based on personalised learning and based often on their multiple needs by gender, heritage, disability, free school meal entitlement or time of year they were born. Ofsted (2010) stress that ‘pupils come from diverse linguistic, cultural and educational backgrounds and these are important variations to consider when interpreting the overall achievement of EAL learners’ (p.4).
One headteacher commented that pupils who have EAL may find it easier to transfer skills, knowledge and understanding as they already have a base language. This ability should be recognised for their advanced attainment and celebrated rather than ‘undermined by some staff’ (EMAG teacher comment). It is important to note that English may not be the additional language of some pupils who are termed as EAL pupils, it could be that the home language is the additional language rather than English, therefore the implication for raising standards is that practitioners need to ensure that any planned intervention has been backed through effective monitoring and data analysis.
The value of monitoring pupil progress was important in the headteachers’ role, but it was also an important aspect of teachers, teacher assistants and specialist staff’s role in planning and assessment. Our evidence suggests that the progress of pupils with EAL need to be monitored more closely to assess the small step changes in their progress through different contexts which may be missed otherwise. ‘Observation is a key tool for monitoring and tracking EAL learner progress’, according to an early year’s teacher. This is standard practice in early years from our evidence but we also found very little evidence of using observations in Key Stage two and the secondary sector.
Ofsted (2010) report that close monitoring and tracking needs to be developed further in schools with high number of pupils who have EAL. They also highlight the need for school development plan to have ‘clear objectives and strategies for the need of EAL learners’ (p.5), and the schools need to use additional funding of Ethnic Minority Achievement Grant to be used more strategically, with regular training for all staff on the needs of pupils who have EAL. A number of practitioners from both sector echoed these comments stating that a systematic, whole school approach is needed from Early Years through to secondary for improved outcomes. The National Strategies plan (2010) add that schools need to use data to expose gaps and patterns, promote accountability and monitor at all levels which use robust tracking process to accelerate progress.
From our research, there appears to be confusion by some staff within the secondary sector on how to collect the evidence systematically and then how to analyse this for further planning and support. As identified in various literature, the leadership team need to have a clear structure through their internal policies to facilitate this process. This is best illustrated by this comment from a primary teacher, ‘the foundation profile tracking data is shared with me which helps me to plan a personalised activities for children who have EAL with the appropriate support. Our SATS results, observations of EAL learners, discussion with EMAG teacher as well as good relationship with parents, further helps to ensure targeted pupil progress’. In contrast to secondary sector, parental consultation events may not necessarily identify specific pupil needs which the National Strategies plan (2010) says limits visibility of disadvantaged learners.
Challenges for leaders to help make schools effective:
The key leadership challenge highlighted from our research evidence is the need for high quality teaching and learning environment. One head commented that, the holistic ethos present in my primary school helps us better meet the needs of pupils who have EAL, whereas in the secondary sector, the holistic ethos remains a challenge. The National Strategies plan (2010), also highlight getting the ethos and climate for learning right. In an inclusive environment, all staff need to believe and promote the school’s vision which leaves no child behind. This is a major challenge for leaders where individual, targeted needs analysis is not yet fully embedded because there is a gap in understanding of staff’s knowledge in using data effectively. The challenge for leaders in a mono-cultural school setting is the lower presence of diverse staff compared to a multi-cultural setting, thus requiring resource planning that stretches the finances even further to acquire specialist staff to meet the need of pupils who have EAL and new arrivals. The greatest challenge identified by one leader in our study was the personal misconceptions of some staff of pupils who have EAL leading to underachievement of such pupils. A primary teacher commented that ‘we have all the systems and structures in place to support all our pupils who have EAL but this is very difficult when some of these pupils take months off to go and visit family abroad. When they do come back, it’s though they have forgotten everything’. This is a challenge for leaders in ensuring that they convey the importance of education to parents through effective partnerships with parents and communities to develop a better understanding and awareness of school systems to avoid children taking time off in term-time. Most staff in our study commented on the need for training on use of data, targeting interventions and tracking for success identified by the National Strategies plan (2010).
An interesting debate for further research is assessing how leaders of a mono-ethnic school best meet the challenges of pupils who have EAL in contrast to those leaders in a multi-cultural environment, where, as Lumby et al. (2004) point out, is at advantage because of greater diversity amongst the staff. This means that they are more likely to have greater cultural awareness and networking opportunity with multi-agency staff to access the required resources more quickly than where the school is in isolated neighbourhood. Another challenge is that the leaders from the secondary schools and feeder primary schools need to work collaboratively more in relation to pupils who have EAL rather than just during the transition phase.
In conclusion, our research offers a number of strategies that could help schools to become more effective by helping to raise their standards for pupils who have EAL. These are: having structured monitoring system in place driven by senior leaders; an awareness and ownership of all staff of the use of this monitoring system which enables pupil progress to be tracked more concisely; training opportunities for data analysis to be available so that there is a systematic and holistic approach in the school. We are mindful that data capturing has to be based on different sources and this remains a challenge for school leaders in terms of time given for partnership meetings, networking and carrying out observations of pupils who have EAL.
Our evidence suggests a huge differential in working practices between the primary and secondary sectors in meeting the needs of pupils who have EAL in raising standards. The monitoring and evaluation is an essential analytical tool for which there is conflicting understanding between the primary and secondary phases. The proposal is that some effective practices in the primary sector need to be embedded in the secondary sector which would ensure that pupils who have EAL continue to make progress. The challenge for leaders is to ensure that at the heart of the learning process is how pupils learn and develop, which appears to be a key feature of the primary culture.
In developing effective schools through effective leadership, we theorise that the school leaders of the future need the moral courage and practical ideas for meeting the needs of pupils who have EAL in more creative ways regardless of setting. This requires a deeper understanding of different cultures and values of pupils, parents and communities. It also requires stronger partnerships with LA officers, governors, staff and specialist support staff of EAL learners in the understanding of data capturing and analysis techniques to make a difference to the EAL learners.
The authors would like to thank all the staff and senior leaders from the varied research schools for their valuable time, comments and thoughts. They would also like to thank, their respective universities for their financial support.
Contacts: email@example.com & firstname.lastname@example.org
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