Seonaid Grant from Alness Academy kindly made up this report following the ESOL Scotland meeting. 

ESOL Scotland Meeting 31/05/31                              SQA Optima Building, Glasgow


1 ESOL Verification.

Talk given by Mairi Howard, ESOL teacher with Glasgow City Council, and external verifier for SQA.

For internal verification, she expects formal records of meetings each session.

Schools should decide roles at beginning of session: Who is assessor? (class teacher)

Who is internal verifier? In larger schools, another ESOL teacher in dept. Smaller school could meet up with an ESOL teacher from a local school or a qualified/experienced ESOL teacher.

Records should include: Candidates’ names, NAB passes/Marks if Int 2/H speaking/Decisions made/Short comments if necessary –e.g. partner too dominant/length/needs more practice/time may be a problem for main exam/re-drafting efficiently….

Internal verification meetings should take place once a term preferably, or 2-3 per session.

The use of optional formative checklists (from ESOL folders) are examples of good practice for evidence at IV meetings.

2 Int 2/Higher ESOL Presentation

This may be re-recorded on the same day if it is clear that the candidate has underperformed through nerves. If recording cannot take place on same day, another topic must be chosen by candidate and prepared for another date.

If schools are asked to submit recorded evidence for SQA external verification, it is important that the recordings are clearly labelled according to SQA instructions (i.e. candidate’s name, school, ESOL unit e.g. Everyday Communication, Outcome 1)

For the spoken element of  Everyday Communication, it is strongly recommended that a peer (either EAL or native speaker) should be used to partner pupil, as it is extremely difficult to get an authentic conversation with teacher. These conversations often end up with teacher leading/asking too many questions. However, there have been examples of this being well executed.

3 Writing (Outcome 2)

It was emphasised that drafts 1 and 2 should be underlined only, and general comments made before pupil does 2nd draft. E.g Watch spelling. Pupils should not be guided to specific mistakes. It is not always necessary to do 2 drafts before final copy, but it is generally considered to be a good learning experience for pupils to correct their work in order to do second draft.

4 EAL Initial Assessment pack

This can be adapted to suit learner, and should be administered by EAL practitioner.

5 Pupils with Additional Support Needs

They should get the same support in ESOL as in any other subject, and should not be disadvantaged. Evidence necessary.

How to diagnose dyslexic foreign pupil? Learning Differences tests are available in Highland Educational Psychologists are moving towards including bilingual learners in descriptors for dyslexia.  Contact your EAL Teacher for more information. 

In Glasgow they have found that a high proportion of Polish children are tested for dyslexia in primary school in Poland , and it is helpful if they have kept this evidence.

6 Who is eligible to sit Higher ESOL?

The criteria seems to be that you must be ‘functioning at home in a language other than English’. This was the advice given by a member of HMI to A Glasgow secondary school. Some pupils move to H ESOL rather than H English after Standard Grade, and this is acceptable. It is not acceptable for native speakers to do this as it may be considered an easy option for an extra higher, and now that universities accept and value the standard of Higher ESOL, it must not be degraded by being open to all.

7 Higher Listening Paper

A significant number of teachers who were present at the administering of the Higher Listening paper have submitted comments to SQA about the ‘unfair’ accents used on the recordings.  Not being present, I just read the transcripts afterwards, so was unaware of the accents. I’m not sure how long we have to submit comments.

8 Marking ESOL Writing NABs

There was a practical session where we worked in twos cross-marking.

9  New National Qualifications update

This was presented by Margaret Sutherland from SQA, and was mainly about the timing of the publication of various documents and explanation of terminology. Other information is in the Unit specifications which we have now been able to download and read for ourselves. It seems that the first assessments exemplars will be in September, so hopefully we may be able to get together with Sean and various schools at Millburn during the October in-service days to discuss.

There will be subject-specific events (including ESOL ) next session, from September.

Information on the Added Value Unit will be in the national domain by April 2013. This unit will be especially significant for ‘ supporting learners in all contexts’ as people should get recognition for what they can do throughout life, not just in school. Evidence for this unit can be gathered from a number of places. It is not just a ‘teaching syllabus’, but a recognition of prior achievement.

Guidance for  evidence and how to make a judgement for this unit should be available by April 13, and the Phase 1 package should be released by October 13.

10 Speaking, not Talking

Despite previous talks, it has been decided to retain the title ‘Speaking’ for Outcome 1(or equivalent unit.) It was to have been changed to ‘Talking’ in line with English and Modern Languages, but it has been decided that ESOL is a universally accepted term, and it would have to be changed to ‘ETOL’ if ‘Talking’ was to be  used as the term for this skill.

11 Scholar

A presentation of the many uses of the Scholar online learning site was given by Mark Watson of Ayr College. We already have access to this site (it seemed new to many of the course participants – thanks to Rhona Steel for introducing me to it) and I can see a lot of potential in it, although it takes time to become familiar with it all. There are apparently 120 hours of ESOL study in it, and  it could be used as a complete ESOL course. A useful resource indeed in financially difficult times, or for pupils for home study.

12 Timing of ESOL Exam

I passed on my concern about the timing of ESOL exam. Our Int 2 pupil had 35 min break before Higher Physics pm. Las year it was Higher Esol am with Higher Psychology pm. I doubt if Higher English would be timetabled with these exams on same day. Extremely taxing mentally for EAL pupil. Last year we informed SQA by phone and email, but were told it can happen for any subject, and EAL pupils are no exception. Timetable is made up a long time in advance. At meeting it was suggested that school should contact SQA formally about this issue.

Interpreters – Contact Details

Telephone Interpreting: Language Line Services

This service is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week in over 100 languages.

Contact one of the EAL team to get a leaflet with instructions

Face to Face Interpreting Services: Global Language Services Limited

If you would like to book a face to face interpreter please call the Highlands Office of Global Language Services Limited on 01463 258839 or email

Flashcard Games for Topics – Learning Support

This website has some excellent flashcards – ready to use in 10 minutes

  • Select your topic and size of card
  • Print
  • Fold in half lengthways, glue and cut up.  The backing makes them easy to cut
  • Laminate if you have time

Great for building vocabulary and confidence for any pupil new to English.

Ideas eg Hobbies

  1.  Give a name to each card eg TV, computers.  Practise saying these words with your pupil.
  2.  Place the cards face down and the pupil chooses one – keeping it secret
  3.  Vary the level by modelling  it in a sentence, eg  “TV?” or  “Do you like TV?” or   “Do you like watching TV?”
  4.  Answer  “No” or “No, I don’t”  or “No, I don’t like watching TV”  Insist on correct pronunciation
  5. It’s your turn when you guess correctly eg “Yes” “Yes, I like TV” or “Yes, I like watching TV”

This game goes down well for those new to English at just about any age working with Learning Support Auxilliaries or peers.

Online Translators – Beware

Use it like a dictionary! Google translate can help improve Listening, Talking and Spelling skills.  Pupils who are literate in their own langauge can type in ONE WORD at a time and click on the  sound icon to hear what it sounds like in English.  Beware of using this tool as a way of translating texts…

Here is an example of how it translated a small passage from the Spanish newspaper EL Mundo about the cold snap in Feb 2012:

“Cold and windy alert over 43 Spanish provinces
Today begins a new wave of cold, very dry and continental character, which will bring minimum below ten degrees in the northeast Spanish.”
  See what I mean?

If you need an Interpreter click on the link under Tags

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