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New research by the University of Oxford shows that children classified as EAL (English as an Additional Language) usually catch up with their peers in their school attainment by the time they are 16.

Schoolchildren without english as a first language 2018catch up2019

The reports’ authors, Professor Steve Strand and Professor Victoria Murphy of the University’s Department of Education, found that at the age of five only 44% of EAL pupils have achieved a good level of development compared to 54% of other pupils. However, by the age of 16, this gap has narrowed significantly with 58.3% achieving five A*- C GCSEs including English and maths compared to 60.9% of other pupils.

In 2014, over one million children were defined as having EAL. During the same year, local authorities allocated £243 million to schools through their locally determined arrangements, to support EAL pupils. Under the current system, the EAL category encompasses any pupil that speaks a language in addition to English and has entered compulsory education within the last three years. The report highlights that the EAL classification currently gives no indication of a pupil’s proficiency in the English language; so, crucially, the bilingual child of a French banker is grouped together with a Somali refugee who may not speak English at all.

The researchers drilled down into the attainment figures for different groups of EAL pupils. They found speakers of Portuguese, Somali, Lingala and Lithuanian have especially low outcomes at age 16, but Russian and Spanish speakers do particularly well.

Read more on the University website (opens new window)


Media coverage

The Independent