Language training is firmly on the agenda, both for learners and for the teachers and training providers who will have to train them in one of their careers.

Previous articles have addressed the Ofsted report on the Department for Education and Skills (DfES) language pilot programmes for teachers and training assistants in English as an additional language (EAL). Here, however, the first port of call is not the positive. As important as recognising success may be, it is also just as important to recognise where there remains much scope for improvement in provision.


Amongst the elements that were deemed to be unsuccessful were the correlation between assessment of practical courses and the implementation of them. Although the courses for teachers were designed to enhance the practical element of the training, as requested by the DfES, the training providers failed to assess this formally. Also, many of the institutions involved in the pilot schemes lacked the necessary understanding of the role and responsibilities of tutors and mentors. The need for better guidance was highlighted as a primary cause of this, and it led to inconsistencies in the quality of the services offered to learners.

Regarding the issue of professional development, there remained grey areas to be addressed. Many of the students on the courses for teaching assistants remained unclear regarding possible qualification routes and the assignment requirements. There was a general problem regarding clarity, with a perceived lack of procedure to assess the long-term impact of the courses on classroom practice and pupils" attainment. However, it was recognised that some of the training providers are addressing the issue.

The report continued to locate weak areas of the provision in the pilot courses. There were further issues with consistency, and Ofsted found that there were instances of weaknesses in quality assurance procedures that led to inconsistent provision and outcomes for the learners. Crucially, many of the tutors involved in the programme were deemed to lack suitable training for the role.

Don"t Look Back"¦

Ofsted made certain recommendations based on their report and survey. The first of these was that training providers should ensure that formal assessment procedures take account of the practical as well as the theoretical elements of teaching English as an additional language. The report also recommended that tutors should be suitably trained and experienced, as should mentors (which may sound to some rather obvious).

Ofsted called for greater clarity for teaching assistants the qualifications and progression routes of the courses they follow, and also made it clear that procedures for assessing the long-term impact of courses on classroom practice and pupils" attainment would be necessary. Understanding roles and responsibilities therefore would need to be established, with clear demarcations of responsibility for tutors and for mentors. Monitoring of the progress of the course is to be built upon and continuous guidance and alterations will be made to ensure the continued relevance of the provision on offer.

The chance to improve the economy in terms of international competition is important, and the provision of EAL and language training in an effective fashion can help to incorporate the individuals with the skills needed for the economy into British work and life. It is to be hoped that the Ofsted recommendations can see a national framework established that will offer the best training possible.

Jethro Marsh

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