Language, identity and the school curriculum: challenges and opportunities for students with English as an Additional Language (EAL) in ‘low-incidence’ secondary school contexts

Howitt, Louise (2022) Language, identity and the school curriculum: challenges and opportunities for students with English as an Additional Language (EAL) in ‘low-incidence’ secondary school contexts. Doctoral thesis, Northumbria University.

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In the education system in England, there are now over 1.6 million students studying through the medium of English as an Additional Language (EAL) (DfE 2020a). This population is unevenly distributed across regions in England; whilst a significant proportion attend schools in large urban areas, such as London and Birmingham, over half (54%) of schools elsewhere have less than 5% of their school population classed as EAL (Strand, Malmberg & Hall 2015: 5). A vast body of research indicates that schools with large EAL populations have developed expertise, experience and provision over time to cater for the diverse linguistic and cultural backgrounds of their students with EAL. However, research investigating schools with small EAL cohorts, referred to as ‘low-incidence’ contexts, is scarce.
Thus, this case study is an exploration of the experiences of students with EAL and their teachers in two secondary schools in North Yorkshire with small EAL populations. Qualitative methods included classroom observations, diary recordings, focus groups with 17 EAL student participants and semi-structured interviews with 18 members of staff across both schools.
The findings reveal the complex and intertwined linguistic, social and cultural challenges students with EAL in these contexts face, including the normalisation of English monolingualism and the lack of cultural and ethnic diversity. This resulted in ‘split identities’ and subtractive bilingualism for these learners. Supporting such students was incredibly difficult for school leaders and teachers, considering the lack of expertise and the absence of cohesive policies and provision. These inequalities were unravelled in relation to existing research and poststructuralist theories of language and identity, including Bourdieu’s Theory of Practice and Norton’s concept of investment.
The findings have significant implications for stakeholders regarding EAL practice, pedagogy, Initial Teacher Training (ITT) and Continuing Professional Development (CPD), not just in ‘low-incidence’ contexts but in the education system in England overall.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Uncontrolled Keywords: language learning, Culture, Subtractive bilingualism, Teaching, Policy and provision
Subjects: Q300 English studies
Q900 Others in Linguistics, Classics and related subjects
X900 Others in Education
Department: Faculties > Arts, Design and Social Sciences > Humanities
University Services > Graduate School > Doctor of Philosophy
Depositing User: Rachel Branson
Date Deposited: 21 Jul 2022 10:42
Last Modified: 21 Jul 2022 10:45

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