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From the Margins to the Centre: Multilingual Teachers in a Monolingual System: Professional Identities, Skills and Knowledge

  • Jean Conteh
Chapter

Abstract

This chapter considers multilingualism in the education system in England from the perspectives of multilingual professionals working in mainstream primary and secondary schools. The main argument is that multilingualism must be regarded as a pedagogic resource for teachers as well as learners in order to promote academic achievement for learners, professional recognition for teachers and social justice for all. Despite the huge changes in British society over the recent years, which have led to the ever-increasing numbers of ‘EAL’ (English as an additional language) pupils in mainstream schools, language diversity is still largely regarded as a ‘problem’ in education (Safford and Drury 2013). ‘EAL’ is the term used in policy to categorise those pupils in state-funded schools in England whose first language is other than English. The latest statistics show that the number of such pupils now surpasses 1 million, with 18.7 per cent of pupils in primary schools and 14.3 per cent in secondary schools categorised as EAL. Despite this, teacher expertise and confidence related to language and cultural diversity is still very limited. Moreover, the numbers of qualified multilingual, minority ethnic teachers have not really changed over recent years. The latest available figures (DfE 2014), which indicate ethnicity using National Census categories rather than language, show that about 12.5 per cent of teachers are not from ‘White British’ backgrounds, which is a crude indication at best. Since 2004, many skilled and experienced education practitioners have moved to the UK from EU accession countries. Because many lack accredited qualifications to become teachers, they currently fill low-status posts in schools. They are often given responsibility for EAL learners, but, in most settings, they do not have the professional status, nor the development opportunities to use their expertise to the fullest.

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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jean Conteh
    • 1
  1. 1.School of EducationUniversity of LeedsLeedsUK

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