I am an EAL (English as an Additional Language) support assistant in a secondary school in Buckinghamshire. In my school we have a high proportion of children where English is not their first language. Languages spoken include Chinese, Polish, Spanish, Portuguese, Greek, Bulgarian, Urdu, French, German, Romanian and Indonesian.
I started working at the school in 2011 after responding to an advert in the local paper. Previously I worked as a lecturer in a college where I taught French, Spanish and German. Prior to this, I taught in various private and public schools.
I meet and greet new students and try to talk to the parents to work out the type of support the children need and where they would best fit in the school. I help them settle in and establish reading and literacy levels. We have a few classes where students are taught in sets so I make recommendations based on my assessments. I encourage the students to join in activities such as lunch club and make them aware of all the after school activities such as the homework club. I also help co-ordinate home language exams when appropriate.
To be an EAL support assistant you have to be a good communicator, be sympathetic and like working with young people. You need to be flexible and quick to respond to challenges. I often need to use body language and it helps to be sensitive and intuitive. A sensitivity and openess to other cultures is important. I often learn from other cultures and find this very rewarding.
To do this job you need GCSEs at grade C or above in English, Maths and Science as well as the ability to speak at least one other language. Ideally, you would also have some teaching experience in languages or ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages). I have GCSE qualifications and am a fully qualified teacher. At school I have completed training on health and safety, first aid and computing, and have also taken part in staff development inset days on topics such as changes to legislation.
The role can be challenging. There are never enough hours in the day, and sometimes you're shown a lack of respect from the students. But I really like supporting and inspiring young people. It’s rewarding to see the children progress knowing I have played a part in this - welcoming, integrating and engaging young people in the life of the school.