Traditional UK boarding schools refer to English language teaching for international students as English as an Additional Language (EAL), English as a Second Language (ESL) or ESOL (English as a Second or Other Language). EAL teaching fosters an improvement in and enjoyment of English in all four skill areas: reading, writing, listening and speaking. Boarding schools and colleges have a great deal of experience of helping students improve their English language skills.
It is their aim is to ensure that those students for whom English is not their first language are able to access the curriculum, perform to the best of their ability in all the subjects they are studying, and secure a necessary English-language qualification. The kind of English language support provided for students varies according to the kind of school or college they attend. It will also depend on their age and the academic programme they are following.
Schools expect students 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. EAL is often is taught within a suite of dedicated classrooms and students can receive up to five hours of tuition a week within the school timetable. All teaching is in English and focuses upon communicative language teaching, underpinned by the teaching of formal grammar.
It is important, therefore, to find out as much as possible about what the school or college provides, and what costs are involved, before making an application. 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, as do the qualifications and experience of the staff responsible, so check these details before enrolling at a school. Schools often offer the opportunity for students 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.
International study centres specialise in preparing younger children and teenagers for a mainstream boarding school. Many study centres successfully prepare students to sit GCSE exams, helping them to get the grades needed to go on to study for A-levels or equivalent qualifications at a mainstream school. Study centres also take pupils who want a short experience of school in the UK. They are very flexible, and will accept pupils at different times of the year, at different ages and levels of English, and for different lengths of time.
Whilst at school all EAL students are encouraged to join in the school activities for example performances in dance and drama, sports teams and debating societies ensuring they make the most of their time and are able to integrate. Students who participate more excel in English more quickly.