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SEN or EAL?

EAL pupils should represent the same proportion of pupils with SEN as the rest of the school population. In the past, EAL pupils were often over-represented in LA lists of pupils with statements of SEN (now known as EHCPs). Research shows that pupils with EAL are likely to be under-identified in terms of SPLDs (dyslexia) and over-identified in terms of speech and language difficulties. Research also highlights that certain ethnic groups are over-represented as having moderate and severe learning difficulties; social, emotional and mental health needs (SEMH) and hearing impairments compared to white British pupils.

  • All EAL learners have language needs.
  • An EAL learner shouldn’t be identified as having a learning difficulty just because they have language needs.
  • Incorrect identification of a child with EAL as having a speech, language and communication need (a ‘false positive’) is also acknowledged as problematic, as it potentially leads to that child receiving inappropriate support and therapy.
  •  In identifying a specific learning need then it should always be remembered that the language needs of the EAL learner need to be addressed at the same time

If you suspect that a child may have a learning difficulty (not just English as an additional language) it is important to pass this on to the relevant agency e.g. SISS or SLT and to make it clear, that any further assessments need to take account of this his/her status as an EAL learner. A process for working with SISS can be found at the bottom of the page.

Pupils with additional needs and English as an additional language should continue to be tracked and monitored as EAL pupils and may still need additional support for language acquisition (see Solihull EAL Tracker). The following information may help you.

Background information

Possible explanations for no progress or slow progress

The problems of standard psychological tests

Collecting the evidence