Non-Native Speakers Of English In The Classroom: What are the Effects on Pupil performance
This 2012 research analyses a census of all children in schools in England (the National Pupil Database) to explore the association between the proportion of non-native English speakers in a year group and the educational attainment of native English speakers at the end of primary school. The study finds that an increased presence of children who do not speak English as their first language is not detrimental to the educational attainment of native English speakers.
This research by Charlotte Geay , Sandra McNally and Shqiponja Telhaj and funded by the Nuffield Foundation finds that:
- There is modest negative correlation in the raw data between the educational attainment of native English speakers and the proportion of non-native speakers in their year group. This correlation is halved once the demographic characteristics of native English speakers have been controlled for. It disappears altogether once the type of school attended by non-native English speakers has been controlled for.
- This means that the negative correlation in the raw data reflects the fact that non-native English speakers typically attend schools with more disadvantaged native speakers. Once this fact shows has been taken into account, there is zero association between their presence in greater numbers and the educational attainment of their native English-speaking peers.
- These results also hold true for younger cohorts (age 7 instead of age 11) and when looking at the number of languages spoken in the year group instead of the percentage of non-native English speakers.
- The analysis strongly suggests that negative causal effects of non-native English speakers on the educational attainment of native English speakers can be ruled out.
- The number of white non-native English speakers grew dramatically after the European Union’s eastern enlargement in 2005. Since many of the new immigrants were Polish (and likely to be Catholic), there was a big rise in the demand for Catholic schooling.
- The much larger increase in the percentage of white non-native English speakers in (state) Catholic schools after 2005 compared with other schools provides a ‘natural experiment’ to see if there were consequences for the relative educational attainment of native English speakers in Catholic schools.
- The results for reading and writing are unclear, but there is some evidence for a small, positive effect in the case of maths. In other words, native English speakers at Catholic schools that saw a strong relative increase in white non-native speakers benefited to a small extent in their maths results.
- Possible reasons for this result include the fact that immigrants from East European countries are better educated and more attached to the labour market than the native population. The children of such immigrants may be a welcome influence in the schools they attend.