Figures showing EAL pupils outperforming native speakers ‘profoundly misleading’

The Tes reports that the Education Policy Institute estimates attainment data missing for three in 10 children with English as an additional language (EAL) in primary schools – and one in 10 in secondary schools

In a report published today, the Education Policy Institute (EPI) also argues that statistics on the performance of EAL students are plagued by missing or misleading prior attainment records, and that “better official statistics” are required to prevent the “urgent needs of some sub-groups” being missed.

The thinktank points out that some pupils reported as EAL speakers were born in this country and speak English fluently – while also happening to speak another language at home – whereas others are recent arrivals in the country with no English at all.

According to the report, attainment varies significantly based on a child’s first language and how late they enter the school system. Three groups – Tamil, Chinese and Hindi – have attainment that is at least one point above the expected standard for children who arrived as late as Year 5.

Likewise, at secondary level, pupils with Chinese as their first language have above-average Attainment 8 scores at age 16 even if they have arrived as late as Year 10, whereas pupils with Portuguese as their first language have below-average attainment even if they have attended English schools since the age of five. 

“Measurements of attainment by children with EAL are misleading because assessments undertaken before English proficiency is reached will under-estimate academic attainment. Attainment is mediated by the child’s English proficiency at the time of the test,” the report states.

Many children with EAL will also have missing attainment data because they arrived after the time of the assessment.

The EPI estimates that around three in 10 children with EAL fall into this category in primary schools – and around one in 10 children with EAL in secondary schools.

Read the full article Figures showing EAL pupils outperforming native speakers ‘profoundly misleading’

Did you find the figures hard to believe when they were published last month? Please tell us your thoughts in comments or via Twitter ~ Tamsin

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Categories: Learning, overseas students, Primary and Secondary.


  1. Victoria Jaquiss

    Perhaps we should stop measuring and comparing people, treating unlike with like, and see the students as individuals without pointlessly parading their “results”for all to see. Teachers have long since spotted the difference between bilingualism and a very second language, and we try to differentiate accordingly. Difficult of course with a government he’ll belt paying the TA’s wages to the not so local CEO.

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