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The EAL department supports all our international pupils both academically and pastorally. We are devoted to ensuring the well-being and academic success of all Downside pupils for whom English is not their first language.

Downside’s EAL provision can be formal, as in the preparation of internationally recognised English Language examinations, or it can be to support pupils in academic subject classes. Mrs Williams specialises in teaching our Cambridge B1 PET for Schools, B2 First for Schools, C1 Advanced and IELTS. Mrs Maistrello, Head of Department, covers all the Cambridge suite of examinations including CAIE IGCSE ESL 0991FX and mainstream English subject support.

We do not charge for the Cambridge courses in Years 10 &11 if chosen instead of mainstream IGCSE English Language & Literature. These EAL pupils have seven classes a fortnight timetabled against mainstream English Literature and Language. This is particularly advantageous for pupils with us for a short time as Cambridge PET FS, First FS and Advanced can be sat in December, March or June, once the EAL pupil is fully prepared. To achieve strong results, extra Listening and Oral examination practice is offered outside of normal classes – it can be quite intense, but the results are worth it.

More details of the Cambridge suite of examinations can be found below in the accompanying links. Proof of English proficiency is always useful. There is an entry fee for Cambridge examinations.

For Years 7-9 and Sixth Form international pupils there is an additional charge for EAL classes. These can be twice a week either 1:1 or in small groups.

Pupils may have to attend EAL classes as a condition of their offer of a place at Downside. Others may be referred to the EAL Department by subject teachers who collect evidence of need and complete an EAL Referral Form. Prior to starting classes, parents are always contacted outlining the costs. The EAL Department is by nature very flexible and EAL pupils may attend classes until their English has achieved a level sufficient for them to access the curriculum effectively.


Outside of the classroom The International Committee, an optional activity, meets to plan cultural events, usually around food, so we can celebrate important festivals involving the whole Downside community. Chinese New Year, Oktoberfest and Dia de la Muertos are just a few of the events celebrated.

The Blessed Gabriele Allegra Society for Boarding House International Prefects meets every half term and is the EAL Department’s eyes and ears in the boarding houses, offering support and activities to integrate all pupils into the rich cultural life of the school community.

ESL Qualification

In Years 7, 8 and 9 pupils may work towards a recognised qualification in ESL (PET/FCE/CAE). In Years 10 and 11, pupils may still be working towards one of these, but in most cases will be working towards either IGCSE or GCSE English. When they reach the Sixth Form, in most cases pupils will need to work towards an IELTS qualification in order to assist them in obtaining an appropriate place at university.

Communication is key to all language proficiency and therefore as a department we ensure that pupils are able to work comfortably in an environment which fosters confidence and allows them to improve their language skills whilst increasing both their self-esteem and academic success.


Head of EAL

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