Multicultural matters

EAL/D: What is it and why do we need qualified EAL/D specialist teachers?

Often misunderstood, misused and undervalued, English as an Additional Language or Dialect (EAL/D) teachers play a critical role in supporting thousands of students to access curriculum and learning across NSW public schools, ensuring that they have equitable educational outcomes and are able to participate in further study and employment. The additional help they provide in assisting their students and families to settle into Australian schools is also central to the work they undertake.

In 2019, there are about 179,000 students who have been identified as requiring additional support to acquire English in more than 1518 of our public schools. In addition to this, intensive English by EAL/D specialists is also provided to students studying in our 14 Intensive English Centres (IECs), the Intensive English High School and in individual schools that cater for the needs of newly arrived migrant and refugee background children. EAL/D students now make up about 30 per cent of students in public schools.

So what is it exactly that an EAL/D teacher does? There are four main modes of EAL/D instruction used across our schools and a combination of these methods is employed dependent upon the needs of their EAL/D students and the resources available.

EAL/D teachers also play an important role working with mainstream teachers to provide professional learning on EAL/D pedagogy, curriculum and the emotional and cultural needs of their students.

Further, EAL/D teachers often take on a leading role in working with culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) families and communities in their schools, as well as initiatives around anti-racism education.

An EAL/D teacher is a qualified specialist in English language acquisition and in primary schools has an additional qualification beyond their K-6 accreditation. In secondary settings, an EAL/D qualified teacher has undertaken practicums in the area of EAL/D pedagogy and, in the main, has studied linguistics and/or language for the length of their degree as a methodology. Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) qualifications can also be done by present teachers as post-graduate study.

This specialist qualification enables these teachers to draw on their knowledge and understanding of literacy and language acquisition to ensure their students can move from the Basic Interpersonal Communication Skills (BICS) to Cognitive Academic Language Proficiency (CALP) in their learning, as well as provide insights into the educational, social and emotional experiences and backgrounds of EAL/D students.


There are still only 896 full-time equivalent EAL/D (previously English as a Second Language) teachers allocated as a staffing entitlement across NSW public schools. In 1993, this number was capped and has only increased by 20 positions well over a decade ago.

This is in the context of an increase of more than 34,000 students identified as requiring EAL/D support in the past five years alone. While significant additional resources have been provided to support these students acquiring English, not one additional EAL/D teacher has been permanently appointed across NSW during this time.

There is no shortage of departmental policy in this area; from the Multicultural Education Policy, EAL/D Advice to Schools, ELP School Planning and Reporting – Equity Funding Support Package, Planning EAL/D Support, Supporting EAL/D students, EAL/D School Evaluation Framework and many others. Unfortunately knowledge and use of these policies appear to be little known and complied with in too many schools across the state.

Federation encourages EAL/D teachers to join with their Federation Workplace committees and broader membership in their schools to discuss and address the filling of EAL/D staffing entitlements with qualified specialists, as well as interrogate the use of the EAL/D equity loading flexible funding component provided to schools to meet the needs of this targeted student group.

Please contact your local Federation Organiser or the Multicultural Officer via [email protected] for further advice and support.

Federation will continue to pursue an enhancement of the EAL/D staffing entitlement in NSW public schools as well as ensure that EAL/D teachers are employed in their schools in a way that is respectful of their knowledge and expertise and enhances their students’ educational outcomes.

Members are encouraged to read our recent commissioned research for our centenary project, titled It’s Complex! Working with Students of Refugee Backgrounds and their Families in NSW Public Schools. The publication provides further insights into these EAL/D students, their teachers, schools, families and communities and the educational experiences that surround them.

— Amber Flohm Multicultural Officer/Organiser

Principals obliged to support EAL/D students
The Department of Education’s website (Wellbeing for schools: Supporting EAL/D students) states principals are required to:

  • include EAL/D student support operations as an integral part of the school plan including professional learning, allocation of resources and regular evaluation
  • ensure that the school meets its EAL/D student support accountability and reporting requirements including the completion of the school’s EAL/D Annual Survey and EAL/D New Arrivals surveys
  • allocate responsibilities for the management of EAL/D student support, including coordination, professional supervision and policy and planning
  • ensure, as far as possible, that EAL/D teaching positions are filled by teachers with appropriate EAL/D teacher qualifications
  • ensure that all teachers are able to cater for the needs of EAL/D students through the delivery of differentiated curriculum across all subjects
  • establish and maintain procedures for the enrolment and appropriate class placement of newly arrived EAL/D students
  • ensure the collection and maintenance of accurate EAL/D student data
  • ensure that the English language proficiency of EAL/D students is assessed, and updated regularly, using the EAL/D Learning Progression and recorded in ERN
  • ensure procedures are in place for the identification, assessment, tracking and reporting on EAL/D students, including students requiring targeted support such as refugee and newly arrived students
  • ensure the development and implementation of effective modes of EAL/D program delivery and teaching practices responding to the school’s EAL/D need
  • report through the annual school report on how the English language proficiency loading and targeted (individual student) funding has been used to support EAL/D, newly arrived and refugee students.

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