Academic journal article Scottish Language

English as an Additional Language (EAL) Service in Aberdeen: A Case Study

Academic journal article Scottish Language

English as an Additional Language (EAL) Service in Aberdeen: A Case Study

Article excerpt

1. Introduction

The United Kingdom has witnessed a considerable increase in the number of immigrants entering the country in the last two decades. Between 1993 and 2012 the immigrant population of the UK almost doubled from 3.8 million to 7.7 million (Oxford University Migration Observatory). These movements have continued to increase to date, leading to an increase in the number of school-going children from non-native English-speaking backgrounds. This has resulted in the formation of policies and practices in relation to the additional needs of students (mainstream primary/ secondary level) for whom English is an additional language (EAL). The Scottish Curriculum for Excellence (CfE) is considered to be 'the most significant curricular change in Scotland for a generation' (McAra, Broadley and McLauchlan 2013: 223). However, the CfE has been the target of criticism for failing to acknowledge and treat EAL as a subject. This article explores the extent to which the policies suggested by the government are translated into the practices of EAL provisions. In connection to this, Aberdeen, being the city that has experienced the largest influx of immigrants in Scotland from outside the British Isles (80% of the Scottish total by 2011, according to the Oxford University Migration Observatory) was chosen as a case study. This study highlights the current practices and the constraints felt in the smooth running of the EAL Service-Aberdeen as a support unit for the EAL pupils of Aberdeen.

The findings reveal some commendable efforts by the EAL Service Aberdeen while being faced by some major constraints. It further identifies areas that need to be reconsidered by Education Scotland, the General Teaching Council for Scotland, Aberdeen City Council and the EAL Service and its teachers. The above should be taken as positive criticism and its aim is solely to highlight the issues that might hamper the attainment of progressive stepts taken by the educational bodies. Since it cannot be denied that language proficiency has been strongly linked to academic attainment and even employability (Williams 2011), this was an area worth investigating. The need for a strong and effective EAL provision which meets the needs of young non-native speakers of English is not only in the interest of the pupils alone but is an integral part in the contribution towards an economically stronger Scotland equipped with a competent work force.

2.1 Migration trends: Magnitude of the situation

According to the 2011 census report by the Oxford University Migration Observatory, Scotland's migrant population (7%) was lower than that of England and Wales (13%), but the percentage increase of foreign-born migrants between 2001 and 2011 was 93%, as compared to England and Wales which was 62%. Furthermore, according to the findings of this report, by 2011 (the year of the last census) the total normal resident population of Scotland stood at an estimated 5,295,403 residents, of whom 369,284 residents were born outside of the UK.

Similar statistics produced by OUMO suggest that the last ten years have witnessed the greatest increase in migration to Scotland. During the period of 2001 to 2011, 63% of non-UK born residents had arrived in that country, which represents the highest level of the last three censuses. Although the entire region of Scotland has experienced an increase in migration, Aberdeen city had the highest migrating population during the same period, as mentioned earlier.

Do any countries dominate in terms of numbers of immigrants? According to the Migration Observatory of the University of Oxford, in 2011, the country with the highest number of residents domiciled in Scotland was Poland (55,231 residents), followed by India (23,489 residents) and the Republic of Ireland (22,952 residents).

2.2 Language proficiency and attainment level

English language learning, in the past, was not a priority in Scotland. …

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