The issue of EAL or bilingual achievement calls into question many of the assumptions made within our education system - How do we define 'EAL' or 'bilingual' pupils? and How do we assess and measure pupil achievement? There are more than a million children between 5–18 years old in UK schools who speak in excess of 360 languages between them and are at varying stages in their learning of EAL, from newcomers to English to fluenty bilingual students.
The resources available on this page generally focus on the narrower question - How well do EAL learners do in standardised assessments compared to all students?
In England, the results of standardised and statutory assessments undertaken each year are published by the Department for Education. These statistics include figures for children and students who do not have English as their first language. Links to the latest figures on the performance of bilingual pupils in standardised assessments can be found to the right. Use the tabs at the top of each spreadsheet to compare years and different performance measures. A summary of the findings can be found below by each relevant key stage.
In summary, the latest attainment data show an enduring difference in attainment between bilingual pupils and their English speaking peers. Whilst analysis shows that differences between the attainment of bilingual learners and mother tongue English speaking pupils have narrowed over time, the statistics also show very wide regional variations. Differences are largest in the Early Years Foundation Stage and narrow significantly by the end of Key Stage 4. Overall differences are smallest in inner and outer London.
Early Years Foundation Stage
In 2012, 56 per cent of EAL and bilingual children achieved a good level of development in the EYFS compared to 65 per cent of children whose first language is English. The difference between bilingual children meeting this benchmark and mother tongue English children has been narrowing since 2007 but has shown an increase in 2012 . In 2007, only a third (33 per cent) of bilingual children met this benchmark compared to 48 per cent of mother tongue English speaking children.
Phonics Screening Check
In 2012, a new assessment was introduced for pupils at the end of Year 1. Six year old pupils were asked to read (or rather decode phonetically) 40 words, some of which were real words and others which were nonsense words. A pupil needed to read 32 out of the 40 words correctly to be considered to have met the required standard. The outcomes of this check showed almost no difference between the decoding ability of bilingual learners and mother tongue English learners. 58% of both bilingual and mother tongue English learners were able to decode 32 or more of the words. Regional differences were evident however, including some areas like Leicester where a higher proportion of bilingual learners than English mother tongue learners reached the required standard.
Key Stage 1
In 2012, a lower percentage of bilingual pupils achieved the expected level (Level 2) in reading, writing, mathematics and science at Key Stage 1 compared to pupils whose first language is English. These gaps have narrowed over time. In reading, the difference was only 4 percentage points in 2012 compared to 7 percentage points in 2008, and this was exactly the same in writing. In mathematics, the difference has been reduced from 6 percentage points to 3 percentage points in the same period. In science, the percentage point difference was 10 percentage points in 2008 and now stands at 7 percentage points based on teacher assessment.
Key Stage 2
In 2011, the local and regional tables show that 72 per cent of EAL and bilingual pupils achieved the expected level (Level 4) in both English and mathematics at the end of Key Stage 2 compared to 75 per cent of pupils whose first language is English. The percentage point difference has narrowed since 2007 when it stood at 7 percentage points to the current level of 3 percentage points.The national tables show that only 70% of bilingual pupils reached this benchmark in 2011. This difference is because the national figures include ‘overseas pupils’ who were subsequently discounted (as outlined above) whereas these pupils are not included in the local and regional figures. Therefore local and regional figures do not sum up to the national figures.
Key Stage 3
Key Stage 3 tests have been optional since 2008. Statistics are therefore no longer collected. However How do Pupils Progress During Key Stages 2 and 3 presents statistical analysis of pupils’ progress in reading, writing and maths during years 3-9, based on a sample of termly teacher assessments for over 70,000 pupils in 10 Local Authorities. This research report suggests that EAL and bilingual learners tend to 'catch up' in this phase, particularly in reading, by making more progress from their lower than average KS2 results.
Pupils with English as an Additional Language (EAL) make more progress in all three subjects. This represents “catching up” with other pupils, who tend to have higher prior attainment levels at Key Stage 1. The biggest difference is in reading, with smaller differences in writing and maths. Most of the differences between pupils with and without EAL occur in the proportions making 2 or more sub-levels of progress, rather than at the margin between any progress and no progress. Pupils with EAL tend to be more likely to make more than one sub-level of progress per term, but in years 8 and 9, this becomes mixed with higher proportions dropping backwards over the year.
Source How do Pupils Progress During Key Stages 2 and 3
Key Stage 4
In 2012, the national figures show that 56.2 per cent of EAL and bilingual learners gained 5 A*-C GCSEs including English and Mathematics compared to 59.2 per cent of English only students. This is a 3 percentage point difference compared to a 2.5 percentage point difference in 2007.
The regional and local figures (which do not include students who are 'discounted' from the results as they have been in the country for less than two years) also showed an increased difference - 58 per cent of EAL and bilingual learners gained 5 A*-C GCSEs including English and Mathematics compared to 59.2 per cent of English only students. The figures for any 5 good GCSEs were 84.4 per cent for bilingual students and 83.0 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. The Yorkshire and Humber region has the largest and most persistent attainment gap, followed by the South West, and East of England.
In 2011 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 was 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.
Information obtained by NALDIC as part of a recent Freedom of Information request showed that in 2011 the average point scores for bilingual pupils were higher
in the following subjects: Biology; Chemistry; Physics; Mathematics; Statistics; Religious Studies; French; German; and Spanish. In contrast, bilingual pupils average point scores were lower
in: Additional Applied Science; Geography; History; English; English Literature; PE/Sports Studies and Music.
Language Diversity and Attainment
The research indicated that there is considerable regional variability in outcomes for bilingual pupils at 16 and a dearth of information examining which specific linguistic groups are attaining less well at school, and where they are located in the country.
Research by Feysie Demie shows the importance of stages of English language learning in attainment.
This paper confirms that there is a strong relationship between stage of fluency in English and educational attainment. The results suggests that the percentage of pupils attaining level 4 or above at KS2 and 5+A*-C at GCSE increased as stage of proficiency in English increased. Pupils in the early stages of fluency performed at low levels, while EAL pupils who were fully fluent in English far outstripped those of pupils for whom English was their only language.
PISA reading tests provide an insight into the performance of pupils by migrant background across OECD countries. Education at a Glance: OECD Indicator A5 'Does student background affect student performance' compares the performance of students in PISA reading tests by migrant background as well as by socio economic background.
For the United Kindom the report indicated that:
- There is little difference in performance in reading between UK second generation students (1) and students without a migrant background (2 )
- There is a significant performance difference (more than 30 points) between UK first generation (3) students and students without a migrant background
- The strength of the relationship between performance and socio-economic background not statistically signicantly different in the United Kingdom from the OECD average impact.
- An enduring difference remains between migrant and non-migrant background UK students even after they are matched by socio-economic status (4) although this difference is below the OECD average
1. Second generation students are defined as those who were born in the UK but whose parents were born overseas
2. Students without a migrant backgrond are defined as those were were born in the UK and whose parents were born in the UK
3. First generation students are defined as those who were born overseas and whose parents were born overseas
4. Socio-economic background is measured by the PISA index of social, cultural and economic status, which is based on information, provided by students, about their parents’ education and occupations and their home possessions, such as a desk to use for studying and the number of books in the home.
National Curriculum Assessment, GCSE/GNVQ attainment by pupil characteristics in England 2002 (Final) and 2003 (Provisional) DfES SFR 04 2004
Covering 2002 and 2003 attainment information by ethnicity and EAL. Figures also available at LEA level.
Pupil Progress by Pupil Characteristics 2002
Analysis of the progress made by pupils in each Key Stage leading up to 2002 KS assessments for English, mathematics and science as well as analysis of progress between Key Stage 3 and overall GCSE/GNVQ attainment. Details progression of pupils by gender, eligibility for FSM, ethnicity, SEN and EAL nationally for the first time.