The TES is reporting that children who start Reception with poor English language skills are more likely than their peers to have academic, social, emotional and behavioural difficulties in later years, a new study has found.
This is equally true whether the children speak English as a first language or as an additional language, according to academics from University College London and Royal Holloway, University of London.
Courtenay Norbury, psychology researcher at Royal Holloway and senior author of the paper, said that she had anticipated that those children who spoke English as an additional language would be doing well by Year 2.
“But, actually, their poor outcomes persisted,” she said. “They didn’t grow out of it with more time in the English school system.”
Bilingualism is widely considered to be an advantage for children academically, the academics said. However, their study found that the cognitive advantages of bilingualism helped with academic achievement only if children’s English was good enough at the start of school to ensure that they were fully engaged with their lessons.
The researchers concluded that the best solution would be to measure pupils’ skills in their first language, in order to gauge whether their problems stem from lack of exposure to English, or from an underlying difficulty with language. But, with the diversity of languages spoken by English schoolchildren, they said, this is impractical.
“But we found that measuring their skills in English, while not perfect, is a helpful predictor of future success.” said Katie Whiteside, of the psychology department at Royal Holloway, and the study’s lead author.
Have you found this to be true in your school as well? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below or on Twitter. ~ Sophie
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