The classroom crisis is so serious that all teachers may need to learn TEFL, according to a leading provider, The TEFL Academy.
Rhyan O’Sullivan, Director of the Sussex-based international company, said: “It is a huge problem in schools. Over the past two years we have noticed an enormous increase in people working for schools who either need or want to be trained in TEFL.
“It’s because they have such a high number of migrants whose English needs to be brought up to the standard of the rest of the class.
“Clearly, teachers have experience of teaching but they don’t know how to teach English as a foreign language. Taking the TEFL course solves the problem. Sending all teachers on TEFL courses is definitely something which needs to be considered, especially when they do their initial teacher training.”
Seb Jones, 32, who teaches at Linhope Pupil Referral Unit, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, told his head teacher he needed to be trained in TEFL.
He said: “We get a lot of Czech and Slovak students – more and more people from those countries are coming to the west of Newcastle. Some of them may speak English but not read or write it. I wanted to do the TEFL course because I didn’t know where to start. I have never learned a foreign language and couldn’t visualise how to teach English or even how to break down a sentence.”
Seb, who teaches maths and English literature, said that one in 10 of his students “struggle with English as a first language”. “They’re able to communicate but not write in English,” he said. “They have a lot of trouble with reading and writing.”
He said that taking the TEFL course enabled him to “relearn English”. “It really breaks down how language works,” he said. “I have had to learn English again which was a headache to begin with but has been really useful in my general teaching as well as for teaching English as an Additional Language (EAL) students.”
Seb, who has been a teacher for 10 years, said it made him realise the teaching of English language in many schools is “dumbed down” with learning the full range of tenses treated as a “waste of time”.
Taking the course definitely helped him, he said. “It has kept me on my toes from a personal point of view,” he said. “And it will help me learn other languages.
“I enjoyed doing it and my students are making more progress as a result. A lot of their parents – Czechs, Slovaks and some Bangladeshis – can’t speak a word of English. I want to help them, too, doing some volunteer work, teaching adults who can’t speak English.”
City of Leeds School – now an academy in the Woodhouse Cliff district of Leeds – had its entire teaching staff trained in TEFL last year because three-quarters of the 300 pupils did not have English as a first language. The then-head teacher, Georgiana Sales, saw it as a pragmatic solution to having students emanating from 55 countries. “Lots of schools do it,” she commented.
And state-run boarding school Burford School, Oxfordshire, has had 17 of its staff trained in TEFL
One of them, Sophie Hearle, said: “Our trainer was inspiring and engaging, and encouraged us to reflect on our own practice and teaching of all our students.”
She said the TEFL course made her far more aware of the importance of identifying the needs of EAL students and gave her a “bigger armoury of strategies to use” in teaching them.
“Our teacher challenged us with tasks which were out of our comfort zone. We gained a better understanding of how our students learn a language and how isolating it can be in a class of native English speakers,” added Sophie.
She said that because of improvements in their standard of English she was “seeing significant progress with our students” with some “exceeding their target grades in English”.
Stuart Bassett, the school’s assistant head, said: “We currently have 94 boarders. They are from all areas of the world with EU or UK passports including Hong Kong, Spain and France. And we have day school students from Bangladesh, Poland and Romania.
“We decided that to give them the best chance in terms of English language, we would have to provide additional support to allow them to make adequate progress in their GCSEs. We thought a very positive idea would be to get our staff trained in TEFL so we could support our students in lessons and prep after school.”
Stuart, who is responsible for supporting the academic progress of students, said: “We thought that this would have a positive impact – and it has had. There has been an improvement in supporting the students in lessons.”
A TEFL Academy tutor came in to train the 17 members of staff last October in a “two-day, intensive, practical course”.
Around 75 of Burford’s 1,200 students have English as a second language and this has enabled much of the cost of the training to come from government funds.
“We have a number of EAL day students who are able to receive additional funds,” said Stuart. “So we used that money as well as some of our school funds to pay for the staff to be trained in TEFL.”
He said it would be difficult for schools to have all their staff trained in TEFL. “The format we used was to have a core group of staff trained in TEFL and then have them share good practice with the rest of the staff through training sessions we ran ourselves,” he said.
But Stuart is in no doubt about the importance of the work. “TEFL gives you a clear understanding of how to teach languages. Education is changing and we need to adapt to those changes to future-proof ourselves,” he added.
“We saw other Oxfordshire schools which have an even greater need for TEFL and we thought that if we can do this, it would help us if the number of students with English as an additional language increases. It’s had a positive impact on the future of the school.”
This article appears courtesy of The TEFL Academy.