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English as an Additional Language

About 20% of our pupils are international students from approximately 25 countries. 

We are committed to making appropriate provision of teaching and resources if English is an additional language for your son. The English as an Additional Language (EAL) Department will identify his needs at the earliest opportunity and ensure that he is able to use English confidently and competently across the curriculum.

Assessing needs

The Head of EAL liaises with the Head of the Faculty of Support for Learning, the two other members of the EAL department, and other academic departments to support your son’s needs. He will be assessed by the Head of Department, who will establish what prior subject knowledge and experience he has in other subjects. 

Personalised support

Your son will receive a programme tailored to meet his needs, including small group or one-to-one support. His class/subject teachers will plan collaboratively with EAL focusing on both language and subject content. To ensure he is doing as well as he can, your son’s progress and attainment as an EAL learner will be closely monitored. We appreciate that your son’s conceptual thinking may be in advance of his ability to speak English. That is why we make certain the cognitive challenge remains appropriately high and is not reduced because the English language demand has been reduced.

Traditional UK boarding schools refer to English language teaching for international pupils as English as an Additional Language (EAL) or English as a Second Language (ESL).

At Merchiston it is EAL. 

Most schools expect pupils to use only English while they are studying and although almost all boarding schools provide some English language teaching for international pupils, this provision varies a great deal from school to school.

At Merchiston your son will have:

Form Period
1F 3p EAL
2F 6p EAL
3F 4p EAL
4F 4p EAL
Sheli 8p EAL
5F 8p EAL
VI Form 4p EAL/IELTS. Plus drop-in as needed for more advanced learners.

1 period = 40 minutes in every 8-day cycle

Some schools charge extra for EAL teaching, but many now include at least some support in the basic school fees. When schools charge for EAL teaching, the cost of tuition varies.

At Merchiston this is £185 per term currently (2018-2019), plus course books and exam fees.

The qualifications and experience of the staff responsible for EAL can vary, so check these details before enrolling at a school.

At Merchiston, Susan Hardman, Head of EAL is TEFLQ (diploma level specialist in EAL) qualified. She is supported by teachers from the Modern Foreign Languages Department, who in addition to their foreign language expertise, are also TEFLI (certificate level qualification in EAL) qualified. Other support is offered through colleagues who have completed online EAL qualifications and are working towards TEFLI.

At Merchiston, many of the staff have lived and worked overseas, and therefore have had first-hand experience of language difficulties and experiencing new cultures.

Independent schools often offer the opportunity for pupils to prepare for public exams such as the Cambridge ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages) exams, an IGCSE in English as a Second Language and the IELTS English test.

At Merchiston – all of the above examinations are offered as follows:

Form Examination
2F, 3F Cambridge PET
3F, 4F, Shell Cambridge First

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