The latest release from the DfE of GCSE attainment statistics indicates that there is an enduring gap betweent the attainment at GCSE between bilingual learners and their peers. The 2011 results indicate that 'Pupils whose first language is English performed better as a group than pupils whose first language is not English when comparing the percentage achieving 5 or more A*-C grades at GCSE or equivalent including English and mathematics GCSEs. The gap has narrowed slightly compared with 2009/10 but is similar to the 2006/07 gap. However, pupils whose first language is other than English performed better when looking at the proportion achieving 5 or more A*-C grades at GCSE or equivalent'.
Whilst NALDIC is pleased that bilingual pupils are doing as well as their monolingual peers in achieving 5 good GCSE grades, we remain concerned that the position has changed little in the last 5 years when English and Maths are taken into account. We are particularly concerned that despite evidence that bilingual pupils are not yet doing as well as their monolingual peers in crucial subjects, the DfE is considering 'time limiting' funding available to schools to support their language development. This is especially concerning when international and national research based evidence suggests that bilingual pupils and students require at least 5-7 years to reach the academic language levels of their English only peers.
The summary figures show that in 2011, 57.5 per cent of EAL and bilingual learners gained 5 A*-C GCSEs including English and Mathematics compared to 58.5 per cent of English only students. The figures for any 5 good GCSEs were 80.8 per cent for bilingual students and 80.4 per cent for English only students. Bilingual students in Outer London were most likely to achieve 5 A*-C GCSEs including English and Mathematics, whilst those in Yorkshire and Humber were the least likely to do so.
A higher proportion of bilingual students achieved the expected level in progress in English than those whose first language is English. 78.1 per cent of EAL students achieved the expected level of progress in English, compared with 71.1 per cent of English only students, a gap of 6.9 percentage points. The gap is wider for mathematics; 75.8 per cent of bilingual students compared with 63.6 per cent of students whose first language is English, a gap of 12.2 percentage points.
There are more than a million children between 5–18 years old in UK schools who speak in excess of 360 languages between them.
A story on this issue in the Times Educational Supplement (17.02.12) raises concerns both about the continued funding for EAL work and the continuing gaps in attainment for Black Caribbean and Pakistani heritage students as well as those eligible for free school meals.