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“That’s my kind of ideal but that’s not necessarily what happens” A Case Study of English as an Additional Language (EAL) Policy Enactment in a UK Primary School: Policy, Understanding and Practice



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The increasing number of English as an Additional Language (EAL) learners integrated into UK primary schools has heightened the need to research how teachers “enact” policies or make them happen. This qualitative case study investigated eleven participants’ views about EAL provision within one primary school in the East of England. The study addressed 1) the extent to which national guidance underpins the school’s own approach towards EAL provision, 2) the understandings classroom teachers have about teaching EAL pupils, and 3) the extent to which teachers’ enacted practices align with policy guidance and their own understandings. The data collection methods included policy document analysis, classroom observations, and semi-structured interviews with the Senior Leadership Team (SLT), and interviews with teachers involving a stimulus card task and semi-structured questioning. Emergent themes were identified using Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis (IPA). Unlike previous research, the study drew on teacher sensemaking theory to frame its inquiry around the intersection between teacher understandings, policy messages, and enacted practices in the context of EAL provision. The positioning of these constructs as interdependent challenges traditional assumptions that policy is superior to teachers’ own implementation. This MPhil study found that while tensions between EAL-specificity and generality emerged in all teachers’ reports and observed enacted practices, the school employed “macro-adaptive” approaches that included EAL learners (Cronbach, 1954). The study argues that the lack of systematic EAL-specific information and communication shaped teacher sensemaking. Despite no written EAL-specific school policy, teachers made sense of EAL provision by enacting shared unwritten approaches. Through the dissemination of its findings, the study has immediate implications at micro-level, shaping the case school’s provisional development of an EAL-specific policy.



Qualitative, policy enactment, teacher sensemaking, English as an Additional Language (EAL), primary education

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Cambridge Educational Research e-Journal (CERJ)

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CERJ, Faculty of Education, University of Cambridge

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