English Plus Programme: Supporting EAL Students



A Deep Dive into Halcyon’s English Plus Programme for EAL Students

Halcyon’s English Plus (EAL - English as an Additional Language) programme can be traced back to the arrival of our IB English Teacher, Lindsey Fairweather, who stepped into her role with the vision to seed an embedded, inclusive approach to teaching English to international students. 

“When I arrived, Barry and I had open discussions about how the English Plus programme would function at Halcyon. In evaluating students’ English levels and deciding how to best support them, we decided to use the WIDA, which is recognized worldwide as being an effective tool for assessing students’ speaking, listening, reading, and writing skills, and for providing an assets-based framework to help them progress on their learning journeys.

English Plus is designed to welcome arriving international students into the classroom, and support their ability to speak, listen, read, and write in English so they can succeed in the MYP and beyond.

Since it began in 2020, English Plus has continually adapted and evolved to meet the needs of both our students and the curriculum. It is now delivered in coordination with fellow Halcyon English Plus teacher, Rahana Ahmed, who also serves as a bridge for students progressing into English B (Grades 10-12). 

Ms Fairweather says: “I collaborate a lot with fellow English Plus teacher, Ms Ahmed; Learning Coach, Ms Rosati; and our Digital Librarian, Ms Deacon. We look at how to best support the development of our students, using all of the tools and skills at our disposal, and leveraging the professional and caring faculty at Halcyon as we strive to deliver a tailored education for every single student.” 

It takes a village to deliver English Plus with many teachers contributing to its success, with EAL students developing English skills in subjects like science and Maths. 

The programme is customised to understand each student’s learning profile. To do so, a variety of data points are collected: such as parent, staff and student feedback, collaborative learning around different teaching and assessing methods, analysis of report cards across different subjects, and regularly monitoring and updating vocabulary lists to ensure multilingual learners are driving their learning, advocating for themselves, and using tech tools in a supported way to aid their language acquisition. 

“Over the years, we have articulated a vision of supporting the curriculum to make sure it is friendly to multilingual learners. Teachers are very receptive to how to craft it to understand what these students know. And students know that everyone cares and is committed to serving them.” 

But, English Plus is also held up by the students themselves. They create a sense of community and belonging in the classroom, helping with peer-to-peer learning at different stages of their journey. It means that students often exit the English Plus programme, then return as mentors, giving back to the wider EAL community. 

Fairweather says, “One thing that is beautiful is the tight-knit community we have fostered. Students know what it's like to be new and overwhelmed.  It's challenging at first and they all support each other through the process. Our students are welcoming and caring, and even English Plus graduates help guide new students in a way that makes the space safe and welcoming.” 

Another key to its success is making classes engaging and creative, diversifying learning opportunities, by allowing students to have a sense of ownership over what they study, such as sharing holiday traditions, or passions like music and food. 

“It’s not just grammar without context, we are constantly talking about how it applies and the learner profile. For our multilingual English language learners, simply showing up and being immersed in English all day is a very brave thing to do. Halcyon is a very fertile ground for all of our students to grow and become more than they or their parents envisioned.” 

Perhaps there is no better emblem of success than watching students progress through the EAL programme, leaving with long-term friendships and deeply held memories. One such success story is our recent graduating student, Sho, who arrived at Halcyon and entered the English Plus Programme, and is now set to study Economics at LSE.   

Sho credits the mentorship and supportive process of EAL: “For me, learning through grammar was important, but the best way, the most efficient way, was by having real-life conversations. 

“All my friends were helpful; they would treat me well. The fact that it’s such a small community meant we could have lots of conversations. Ms. Fairweather, my mentor, helped me with mental support, building my confidence, and answering questions about English grammar and pronunciation. She also helped with using technology, which improved my reading, writing, and overall confidence.”