English as a second language in schools

I think that the news that English will be taught as a foreign language in a secondary school in Leeds is fantastic. I really hope that it will be implemented in other schools in the UK. I volunteered for a year in lower set English classes in a secondary school and one of my biggest frustrations was that the pupils – who mainly didn’t have English as a first language – were being taught English the same as pupils with English as a first language. This meant that although they were aged 11 and 12 they were being made to read books aimed at children much younger than them. They had to complete work-sheets which assumed a child had grown up hearing English.

Of course they felt frustrated and didn’t enjoy the classes when they had to read books aimed at children so much younger than them.

I studied a module about teaching English as a foreign language at university and some of the principles there would have suited the pupils I was working with a lot better. Schools need to be aware that a large proportion of students might not have English as a first language and allow them to have the opportunities to learn, so they can integrate better with their peers and understand classes. Giving them books for young children won’t increase their confidence or enjoyment of lessons.

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