With over 200 languages spoken in Ireland (NCCA, 2015), there is an urgent need to accommodate the diverse language and literacy needs of children with English as an additional language (EAL) in primary school classrooms. Research-based evidence is reported in this presentation which will examine curricular and policy reform in Irish primary education, espousing inclusive integrated bilingual immersion teaching for children with English as an additional language in mainstream classes. It will subsequently outline the authentic experiences and issues currently facing Irish primary mainstream class teachers in dealing with learners with English as an additional language (EAL), particularly at the beginning stage of their language learning. It will highlight four main issues identified from research: teachers’ perceived levels of confidence and knowledge in supporting EAL learners; the issue of collaboration and professional development; the need for inclusive practices and resources and accommodating and embracing diversity challenges. The presentation will conclude by highlighting supports needed at school and national levels to further promote the development of language and literacy for EAL learners in Irish primary schools.
By the end of the presentation it is envisaged that participants will identify with and understand the complexities of the role of the primary school teacher in supporting EAL learners in Irish schools, at a time of significant curricular and policy reform in Irish primary education; become aware of the limitations of current national and local supports for teaching EAL learners in an Irish context and recognise the importance of continuing professional development for teachers of EAL learners in order to develop linguistically responsive teaching approaches for meaningful, contextualized language and literacy development.