Early Years

English as an Additional Language

Early Years


Devon EMTAS is a dedicated multi-ethnic and multilingual team, with over 20 years' experience of working closely with Devon schools to remove barriers and inequalities in attainment and achievement.

We have regular Network meetings for Early Years practitioners which are free to all EY settings. Early Years network meetings are held once a term and are open to any EY practitioner with an interest in supporting pupils learning English as an additional language. To book your place on a Network meeting click here and search for EAL.

We can also provide bespoke training for settings

Bilingualism Multilingual Storytelling
Induction and Supporting New Arrivals EAL Assessment
Teaching and Learning Vocabulary Differentiation


Primary school admission for September 2021

Please check our website for translated admission to primary school 2021 flyer which should be added to our resources website shortly. 

Please see our Bilingual resources,  the EAL proficiency assessment resource as well as  advice/strategies on supporting new arrivals.We have also developed many useful Multilingual resources for remote learning. These can be very helpful while children are away from seeting/school. 

We also provide free loan of EAL Story sacks, Bilingual books, Talking pens and Persona Dolls.

Reflecting on practice and provision- EAL in Early Years guide.  

Persona Dolls resources are also available, please email us to request one. 


Welcoming new arrivals

  • Arrange a short meeting with the parents and an interpreter (if necessary) before the child joins your setting and complete the Gathering Information Form.
  • Reassure parents that maintaining and developing the home language will support learning English and enable the child to communicate with their extended family.
  • Check pronunciation of children's names.
  • Find out about the child’s prior learning experiences and their abilities in their home language.
  • Learn key words and phrases in the child’s home language and teach the whole class.
  • Display different languages and scripts in your setting. Make signs and labels in other languages and use dual language books.
  • Encourage parents' active participation in the setting for bilingual storytelling, label writing and sharing of cultural information.
  • Record cultural and religious information at initial meeting (customs, diet, festivals, worship)
  • Use this opportunity to inform the parents (and encourage them to ask questions) about the setting.
  • Encourage parents to support their child's learning through language and play using their home language.

There is a new EAL assessment framework for Early Years

Making your setting EAL friendly

  • Encourage parents' active participation in the setting e.g. using bilingual skills for storytelling and making dual language labels. Link with parents and community groups to inform your planning and help you provide a global curriculum.
  • Raise all children's and parent's/carer's language awareness, e.g. welcome sign in many languages, signs and labels around the setting in many languages, dual language books for free choice and to share at home, dual language storytelling songs/rhymes in a variety of languages especially counting songs and counting rhymes.  Multilingual labels.
  • Use multicultural cooking utensils and dressing up clothes, multicultural food and cutlery/crockery in the role play area and encourage children to experience food from a range of cultural traditions at snack times and during cooking sessions.  www.eduzone.co.uk
  • Provide opportunities for children to listen to music and play musical instruments from around the world.
  • In the imaginative play area supply resources that explore a range of different cultures. Use books and posters of families from a range of backgrounds, portraying festivals, decorative cloths, a variety of scripts and number systems.
  • Ensure dolls and puppets have accurate and realistic skin tones, facial features and hair textures. Supplement nursery rhymes and songs with visuals. www.eduzone.co.uk
  • Teach the whole class songs/rhymes in other languages. EAL children need to know that you value their home language, the monolingual children in your group can only benefit from this.
  • Download our vocabulary teaching strategies here.
  • Download Early Childhood Education  in EAL guide here.


The EYFS is an excellent tool for assessing children in early years including those who have English as an additional language. It can be difficult to assess accurately with bilingual children unless it is done using the child's home language. The EYFS encourages practitioners to assess all areas of learning through the home language, except language, communication and literacy which Naldic disputes- see Naldic's response to the EYFS.

We do not believe that Communication, Language and Literacy can or should be assessed only through English. To do so, and to mark bilingual children against age related expectations would mean that a high proportion may ‘fail’ and this would have hugely negative consequences for bilingual children, their families and staff who work with these families.

It is difficult in Devon where we don't have access to many bilingual teachers to assess bilingual children accurately. We recommend using interpreters from multilingua and parents to support you in building an accurate picture of the bilingual child's development. One way to assess language development could be to work alongside an interpreter and the parent to complete an assessment using Talking Point

We  recommend that you use the Early Years New EAL Assessment alongside the EYFS in order to track language learning progress and set appropriate language learning targets for children.

Information for parents/carers

Over 70% of the world's population is bilingual; your child is more than capable of learning two (or more) languages!

Why should you bring your child up bilingually?

. your child will be able to communicate with your extended family

. you will be able to speak naturally in your home language to your child

. your child might have better career prospects by being bilingual

. your child might achieve more academically by being bilingual

We have developed some free resources to help families support their children through the Early Years. Please see our Bilingual Resources.

Information and guidance on bilingualism in the early years is available from the Literacy Trust. Some resources have been translated into other languages.  There are also series of bilingual quick tips, in 18 different languages, for parents and early years practitioners to help children develop good talking and listening skills.

Free Early Years education

Some two, and all three and four year olds are entitled to free part-time Early Years Education.  The part-time, free Early Years Education places are available in school nursery classes, state or private nursery schools, day nurseries, playgroups or pre-schools and with approved child-minders.

You can check your eligibility through the Childcare Choices website.



Home Language Assessment of young EAL learners

If Early Years practitioners are concermed that the child is not speaking English you should use the EAL Assessment. Some children go through a silent period so they will need time to acquire their additional language. If a child is showing challenging or concerning behaviour/inability to express themselves or make friends/no progress in EAL then you would consider using the Home Language Assessment to unpack any possible underlaying issues. (SEN/S&L)

Used alongside the FSP, it can provide practitioners with a fuller picture of young bilingual learners' language skills both in their first language and in English.

Please get in contact with the EMTAS team if you would like us to carry out a HLA. It is essential that this is done alongside a professional interpreter or bilingual teacher.

Please see the Home language assessment of young EAL learners here.


The Silent Period

An initial silent period, which may last for a very short time, or even months, is a natural stage when learning a language.  Toddlers do not begin to speak until they are about 1 year old or even older – they are however listening and imitating the sounds they hear around them.

English as an Additional Language (EAL) pupils may also exhibit a “Silent Period” This is also part of normal development and children are not passive at this stage. It is a time for listening, and tuning into the language and routines of the lessons.  It is important not to make them feel anxious or under pressure to speak; they are absorbing lots of information.
Do not panic – the “Silent Period” is only a cause for concern if it is prolonged – it could last for several months.

Clarke  (1992) suggests 10 strategies for support during the “Silent Period” summarised below:

Continue talking even when the child does not respond.
Continue to include the child within small groups of children
Structure activities to encourage child to child interaction
Model a variety of questions
Use other children as the focus of the conversations
Use First Language as often as possible
Always accept non-verbal responses
Constantly use praise, even for minimal effort
Activities should include expected responses of repeating words and / or counting
Provide activities which reinforce language practice through role-play.

Some examples of reasons for a “silent period” might be:

Waiting to feel safe enough to speak – not being laughed at
Being shy at home may equate to being “mute” at school
Having suffered trauma before arriving in school eg. Asylum Seekers & Refugees from war -  torn countries
Some pupils have continued to be “elective mutes” to make parents suffer after leaving all their friends in their homeland

If the “silent period” is very prolonged then it is possible through first language assessment to find out if the child:

has a social language that is age appropriate
has expressive speech but obvious language difficulties
is an elective mute – they may appear to be but some will then speak in First Language during assessment!

This information may be key to inform any decision making process. It is important to collect a wide range of evidence and meet the parents with an interpreter if needed, to gain background information, especially about previous language development.


The Benefits of a Bilingual Brain

What are the advantages of having a bilingual (or multilingual) brain? This video details the three types of bilingual brains and shows how knowing more than one language keeps your brain healthy, complex and actively engaged.


Bilingualism FAQs- National Literacy Trust

Supporting Children Learning English as an Additional Language-Primary National Strategy

Top Tips for working with EAL children in Early Years

Induction-Gathering Information Form

We also have a team dedicated to just Early Years providing high quality support, advice and challenge in the wide range of early years settings and schools across Devon and beyond.
Find out more from our Early Years team here!

Talking Point-Progress Checker
Bilingual Quick Tips in 19 languages
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