Across the UK nearly 20% of children aged between 5 and 16 speak English as an additional language to one or more native languages. Despite some degree of effort from schools to support those children with measures like additional pupil support, foreign language voiceovers and subtitles, and specialised teacher training, children who have EAL are falling behind in educational attainment.
There have been various studies that highlight that children with EAL are not being supported so that they can reach their full potential. The attainment is expected to be impacted to some degree, yes, but studies are suggesting some serious disparities, highlighting the need for substantial changes to be made to help them to reach their full potential. Let’s take a look at some of the study findings:
One study showed that attainment is impacted by the first language the child has. Tamil and Chinese speakers are shown to do better than those speaking Turkish or Pashto, no matter when they begin school in the UK. That isn’t to say arrival time is not impactful, though, as the same study showed the later a pupil arrives in the UK school system with EAL, the more likely they were to underperform in their grades.
The same study also showed that the more proficient English students are when they begin school in the UK, the better they would do in their education. So children who are multilingual with good English skills, or who have earned English in their home country, tend to have a better chance at educational success, compared to those who have little to no English proficiency.
This study showed that EAL children who start the school process with achievement impacted by their language needs will tend to leave school with minimal impact from their EAL status. This supports the idea that the sooner EAL children are entered into the UK educational system, the more likely they are to adjust and do well in their grades.
This study suggested that children with English as an additional language commonly experience lower academic attainment compared to children who have English as their main language. The same study suggested that EAL children with fewer difficulties at a younger age (social, behavioural, emotional) were more likely to eventually get on target with their educational goals.
These studies highlight that unfortunately, despite efforts like foreign language voice overs, website translation and teacher training being put in place, EAL children are simply not getting all they need to succeed in their UK education.
With the amount of EAL children in the UK increasing year on year, it is imperative that schools are able to adjust, so that every single pupil has the best possible chance of reaching their potential and coming through the education system in the UK with fantastic grades and experience as the move into adult life.