Be More Saxon

24th April 2015

There was a small news item the other week that caught my eye. Someone analysed the DNA of a number of people from longstanding “area-based” families, that is to say people with all four grandparents originating from the same place. From this it was deduced that the invasion with the biggest long-term impact on the English populace was not the Romans, the Vikings nor the Normans, but the Saxons.
The Vikings and Romans came and raided. They built things and left some words and place-names, but very little tangible DNA continued in the English population. The Normans left even less DNA, despite being our most famous invaders, though they did give us Magna Carta and a lot more words. But the Saxons, hardly mentioned, left DNA which is still clearly present in modern Brits.
What on Earth has this to do with EAL, I hear you ask? Well it seems to me the Saxons may be the best blue print for EAL teachers.


It is a constant, well frequent, puzzle to me, why, after fifty years of EAL support in schools, do so many teachers seem surprised by the efficacy of group work, talk, and comprehensible input?

Many EAL teachers in the past, sought to emphasise their specialism. A worthy niche was carved, but other teachers were not privy to our mysterious ways. This meant when the funding went, the knowledge went, leaving EAL beginners at the mercy of phonics programmes and SEN groups.

Similarly, others felt that the way forward was to secure roles in the hierarchy of schools, or even out of schools. Ensuring status for EAL professionals was a route to raising the status of EAL pupils. Unfortunately, it is actually quite tricky to influence classroom practice through dictates and guidance documents. Certainly in Primary Schools; in Secondaries it may be different.

Going back to invaders, the Romans and Normans were superior and separate, mixing little with the populace. They came, they saw, they conquered, they went away and we carried on as before. The Saxons seem to have lived among us, introduced ideas, and worked with us. Through this process we became, at least in part, Saxon.

So, EAL teachers, be more Saxon. Don’t worry about our specialness, our separateness or our place in the hierarchy. Be a teacher, be in classrooms, work alongside your fellow teachers and share your ideas. Give away your ideas. Watch as teachers start to incorporate EAL friendly and effective practices into all their lessons.

In short, become part of the DNA of the profession. Be more Saxon.