See our response to the Revised GCSE and equivalent results in England, 2016 to 2017 report (DfE, 2018) below
NALDIC welcomes the findings of the Revised GCSE and equivalent results in England, 2016 to 2017 report issued by the Department for Education on 25 January 2018. The report identifies continuing improvement in EAL pupils’ average attainment in these exams. NALDIC celebrates the hard work of pupils, their families, their teachers and their schools in achieving this success.
It is important to acknowledge, however, that the way in which the DfE analyses data has changed since previous years. As noted in the report (p22), year-on-year comparison is thus complicated by these changes. NALDIC cautions against complacency in the light of this headline finding and urges policy makers and school leaders to monitor carefully the progress of their EAL pupils as these new measures bed down.
The report also documents that, on some measures, pupils with EAL have performed more highly (on average) than pupils classified as monolingual English (See pp 22-30 of the report). Here it is crucial to recognise that the classification ‘EAL’ is very broad and masks enormous diversity in terms of other pupil characteristics. This diversity includes where EAL pupils go to school, their levels of English proficiency, their first languages, their prior educational experience, their length of time within the English education system, their ethnicity, and so on. When data are broken down by these characteristics we see that headline findings such as “Pupils who speak English as second language overtake native speakers, figures show” (The Telegraph, 25 January 2018) are misleading. Generalisations of this kind can negatively inform policy and practice.
Analyses of EAL attainment data that takes into account different characteristics of pupils classified as EAL (see here, here and here) demonstrates that there remains wide inequality within the umbrella classification ‘EAL’. Unsurprisingly, therefore, there is also wide inequality between many EAL pupils and so-called ‘native speakers’ of English.
NALDIC cautions against complacency in the light of these findings, so that the significant challenges faced by many EAL pupils are recognised and not ignored. Moreover, we urge policy makers to look to regions where EAL learners are attaining well to learn how to promote success for EAL pupils in other areas of the country who are currently performing below benchmark standards.
2nd February 2018