What is ELS?

ELS stands for English Language Support.

Which students might be in need of ELS?

  • Students who are learning English as a second or additional language. This may mean they have had some or no exposure to English.  
  • Students who may have had some or no schooling equivalent to that of children the same age as them. Their schooling may have been interrupted by moving around different countries or schools. 
  • Students who are not as proficient in English as a student of the same age who has been learning only in English. 
  • Students who need assistance in classroom activities because of their stage of English language development. This may include specific language skill development such as writing and/or the opportunity to develop confidence in their use of spoken English.

How long will students normally need to receive ELS?

  • The fact is there is no direct answer to this question. The speed at which a student learns a language depends on many things such as: the level of support they get at home, the similarities between their first language and English, their general aptitude and their attitude towards learning... the list goes on.
  • There have been cases where students have exited the ELS Programme in as little as a year but for most it takes much longer.

  • It has long been established through research by Cummins (1996) and others that an EAL (English as an Additional Language) student starting primary school with little or no English can take from 5–7 years to reach the same level of English as his or her age-equivalent peers.

  • Adolescent students are generally able to make more rapid progress in language development in the initial stages than young children but their language will continue to exhibit EAL features and they will still benefit from EAL support for some time.

Cummins also writes about two types of competence:

• Basic Interpersonal Communicative Skills, which are usually quickly acquired, in the classroom and through interaction with peers.

• Cognitive Academic Language Proficiency. It is this latter competence which often needs to be the focus of ELS teaching at the more advanced stages.

 A student’s ability with everyday spoken English, and even their accent, may lead teachers and parents to believe they are no longer 'ELS', but this may not be the case, and the student may still need targeted teaching and support to reach the same level of academic proficiency as their peers.

How are the students assessed?

Every non-native English speaking student has an interview with the Head of ELS or ELS teacher who will determine whether the student would benefit from ELS.
After starting school the student will have further assessments to determine exactly what reading and writing level they are on and get support specific to their needs.

When will they no longer need ELS?

When the student can fully access what is going on in the classroom and produce work that is expected of them at their level in a British International School without extra support.

If the student regresses without that support then it might be the case where they will be put back in the ELS Programme.

Will speaking a language other than English slow down the rate at which my child learns English?

No. It is important to continue to speak your first language at home while your child learns to speak English because:
• It will help to maintain good communication between family members.
• It will assist your child’s learning because if they do not understand something in English you can help them to understand using their first language.
• It will be an advantage for your child in the future to be able to speak two languages.

What kind of homework can we expect the ELS student to receive?

At GIS we do not believe in overloading the ELS students with extra homework with the exception of reading. The students will have electronic books sent home for them each week and if these can not be accessed at home other material will be provided.
It is important that they have time to relax and process what they have done during the day.

Reading and the love of reading is the single most important and effective way of improving language or education in general. 


Curriculum Related Assessment and Bilingual Children
Cummins 1996

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