7th February 2018

Educational Outcomes of Children with English as an Additional Language

The Education Policy Institute and The Bell Foundation have today published a report on the educational outcomes of children with English as an Additional Language (EAL). 

The analysis examines the attainment of EAL children, as well as funding provision and the support available to pupils in this group.

You can download the report here.

Key findings


Performance of EAL pupils

  • Average attainment scores of EAL pupils are deeply misleading and conceal considerable variation.
  • Headline figures published by the Department for Education show that, on average, in 2016 EAL pupils performed well – with similar attainment scores to the national average, and greater than average progress during school. They were also more likely to achieve the English Baccalaureate than those with English as a first language (28 percent versus 24 percent).
  • These figures, however, obscure significant disparities in performance – and are also distorted by missing records – estimated at nearly a third of EAL primary pupils, and one tenth of secondary pupils, who have absent attainment records due to late arrival to the English school system.


Primary performance

  • Looking beyond headline figures, this new analysis finds that some groups, including those with a first language of Pashto, Panjabi, Turkish, Portuguese, Czech and Slovak, perform below national standards in primary assessments – despite having entered the English school system at an early stage as infants.
  • Conversely, other groups, including Tamil, Chinese and Hindi pupils, perform above national standards at primary – despite having arrived in the school system as late as Year 5.


Secondary performance

  • Some EAL pupils, such as late arrivals with Pashto as a first language, score, on average, between an F and an E at GCSE in Attainment 8 having arrived into the English school system in Year 9.
  • At the other end of the scale, children with Chinese as their first language perform well, averaging between a B and a C at GCSE in Attainment 8 – despite having also entered secondary school in Year 9.


Arrival time of children vs. attainment

  • There is a severe attainment penalty for pupils arriving late into the English school system. At primary and secondary level the time at which the average EAL pupil enters school reliably predicts attainment levels.
  • In Key Stage 2 assessments, on average EAL pupils in reception scored 2 points above the expected standard in reading and maths. However, performance declines to 2 points below the expected standard by Year 3, and continues to fall to a striking 17 points below for pupils arriving before exams in Year 6.
  • At GCSE level, pupils with EAL scored an average grade of a C if they arrived between reception and Year 7. This decreased to a grade of around a D if they arrived in Year 8, 9 or 10 – falling further to below an E if they arrived in Year 11.
  • These penalties apply to all language groups. Even for groups that seem to perform well when arriving late, such as Chinese pupils – attainment is still greatly affected, with performance significantly worse than early arriving Chinese pupils.
  • Our analysis also finds that the ability of different regions to support late arrivals in the EAL group varies substantially, with the North lagging well behind the South.


Funding for EAL pupils

  • When examining the government’s new national funding formula for schools (NFF) we find that overall, deprived urban schools in areas of high ethnic diversity will face losses – while schools outside of London and other large urban centres are set to see increased levels of funding.
  • While local authorities have flexibility over allocations, the NFF overall translates to an increase in funding following the average secondary pupil with EAL of 48 per cent in 2019-20. EAL primary school pupils, (who account for the bulk of EAL funding) face an average reduction of 10 per cent – with reductions expected even if these pupils live in the most deprived neighbourhoods, or are on free school meals (FSM).
  • Taking into account pupil performance, is it also evident that funding in the NFF specifically targeted to EAL pupils does not adequately support the development of academic language proficiency. The NFF allocates funding to each EAL child in each of their first three years in school in England – yet the attainment profile for EAL pupils strongly suggests that it takes longer than three years to become fully proficient in English.


Specialist expertise in English schools

  • Compared to other countries, England’s system for developing support for EAL pupils through specialist roles is insufficient. English-speaking jurisdictions, such as New York State, Minnesota, Alberta, New South Wales and New Zealand promote far more extensive EAL policies.
  • As a result of funds no longer being ring-fenced for EAL pupils, and overall budgetary pressures, the supply of EAL expertise in schools has declined significantly. There is a noticeable absence of any mechanism which generates specialist expertise on EAL education, with England lacking national oversight or provision of professional qualifications, staff development and specialist roles for teachers and staff working with EAL children.


Key recommendations

  • With current funding provision for pupils arriving late into the English school system inadequate, a ‘late arrival premium’ is needed in the national funding formula for schools to provide intensive support, and, in particular, to help address the large attainment differences between those arriving in Year 7 and those arriving later in Year 10 or 11.
  • The government should develop new policies to generate and maintain EAL expertise in schools. Lessons can be drawn from other English-speaking jurisdictions – where there are effective policies for establishing specialist EAL roles, programmes for staff development and graduate level specialist qualifications.