Regional variations for bilingual students at GCSE
Research by the Instutite of Policy Studies and London Metropolitan University of GCSE attainment statistics indicates that there are enduring gaps between the attainment at GCSE of bilingual learners and their peers and that these gaps are particularly evident in some localities. The 2012 report, funded by the Arvon Foundation, found that:
- While other first language speakers, and minority ethnic pupils in general, attain better results in London, there are still persistent gaps in attainment between English first language, and other first language speakers, nationally.
- There are large attainment gaps in the Yorkshire and the Humber and the North West regions, which need further exploration.
- Overall, many of the widest attainment gaps are present in local authorities with substantial Pakistani ethnic minority groups – for example, Peterborough, Oldham, Bedford, Bury, Derby, Sheffield, and Calderdale – who tend to speak Urdu, Punjabi or Mirpuri and experience economic disadvantage. This association clearly needs further examination.
- There is clearly a need for further research into new ethnic communities from Eastern Europe, whose educational and language profile, and needs, tends to be obscured in the White, or White Other ethnic category.
- Similarly, Black African ethnic groups need to be specified in relation to language to gain a fuller picture of their educational achievements. In particular, more recent migratory flows from Central and East Africa (e.g. Congo, Angola, and Zimbabwe).
The overall 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. 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'.
A story on this issue in the Times Educational Supplement (25.05.12) notes that NALDIC has warned against complacency and treating bilingual pupils as a homogenous group. The article also quotes John Bangs, senior research associate at the University of Cambridge, saying "The bad move would be to simply say that children with EAL were doing better than other kids and leave it at that,"
There are more than a million children between 5–18 years old in UK schools who speak in excess of 360 languages between them.
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