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EAL parents ‘can’t engage with school life’

More than half of teachers worry that parents whose native language is not English are missing out on critical elements of their children’s education, a survey shows.

Nearly seven out of 10 teachers said they were concerned parents couldn’t help with homework, and 51 per cent worried whether they could identify if their children had learning difficulties.

More than half (56 per cent) of teachers surveyed said they feared parents with English as an additional language (EAL) could not fully engage with school life.

The survey was carried out by YouGov and commissioned by translation app ClassDojo.

“Being a parent is already a challenge, and societal pressures often make parents feel as though whatever they do for their children is never good enough,” said Tony Donohue, a teacher at Prendergast Primary School in Lewisham, South London.

Parents face language barrier at school

“Adding in a language barrier means that the challenges faced by EAL parents are so much higher.”

Michelle Armson, a teacher at St Philip Neri School in Nottinghamshire, where more than half of her class have EAL, said she worried that school communications were being lost in translation.

Parents had to rely on their children telling them what was going on, and children being children. We were lucky if the letter ever made it out of the bag,” she said.

Official data shows 1.54 million children – almost a fifth of pupils in English primary and secondary schools – have EAL, and that number is growing.

Last year, GCSE pupils with EAL outperformed native English speakers across all the Department for Education‘s measures.

But academics have warned that lumping all EAL pupils into the same category is innately “problematic”.

The survey found that only 28 per cent of teachers thought their school had enough resources to help parents of EAL learners with their English skills.

Two-thirds said they had been forced to talk to a parent of an EAL learner about a school matter through their child, and three out of five felt that they received less feedback from parents of EAL learners.