Schools must account for EAL spending, experts say

Cash for pupils without English as a first language needs to be better targeted and schools should be held to greater account if it is not spent effectively says a report out today.

New research published shows huge variation in the results achieved by students classified as English as an Additional Language (EAL).

The English as an Additional Language (EAL) and educational achievement in England report by University of Oxford professors Steve Strand and Victoria Murphy calls on local authorities to continue prioritising EAL funding and urged schools to target funding more effectively.

They say schools should be held accountable for spending their resources in ways that reduce the attainment gap of pupils within the EAL category in a similar way to how they demonstrate Pupil Premium spending impacts on disadvantaged students.

Their research shows on average EAL students catch up with their peers by the time they reach 16, but 10 percentage points fewer achieve a good level of development at the age of five compared to their peers.

There was also a huge range of results for different EAL pupils with speakers of Portugese, Somali, Lingala and Lithuanian having low outcomes at aged 16 while Russian and Spanish speakers do particularly well.

But it was noted that English-speaking pupils do not face any negative impact from having large number of EAL pupils in schools with them.

More than one million children were defined as having EAL in 2014 and during that time £243 million was given to schools.

The three funders of the report – the Education Endowment Foundation, Unbound Philanthropy and The Bell Foundation – have pledged to continue working together to build evidence of cost effective strategies for improving attainment for EAL pupils most at risk of underachievement.

Bell Foundation director Diana Sutton said: “Average attainment figures mask a disparate set of results and a significant chance of under achievement for some children.

“It may take longer than three years to acquire good academic language and this needs addressing  by better targeting EAL funding to improve the educational outcomes of those most at risk.”

The current system means the ‘EAL category’ encompasses any pupil who speaks a language in addition to English and has entered education in the past three years – the bilingual child of an Italian banker is grouped with a refugee who may not speak any English.

While 919 of the 1,681 schools with more than 50 per cent of pupils recorded as EAL are in London, a large number are located in the West Midlands, North West and Yorkshire & the Humber.

Education Endowment Foundation chairperson, Sir Peter Lampl, said“We must ensure all our schools are meeting the educational needs of pupils that do not have English as their first language.

“By ensuring that all these pupils have fluency in English, we can make sure that they have career prospects and a future here in the UK.”

A Department for Education spokesperson said: “Our plan for education will ensure all children leave school with the knowledge and skills they need to go on and succeed in life, no matter what their background.

“Schools and local authorities are best placed to decide how to meet the individual needs of their pupils, including providing support for those with English as an additional language. That’s why we have given local authorities the freedom to allocate money to these pupils. In addition, we have protected school funding since 2010 to ensure that schools and local authorities have the resources they need.

“We welcome the work which EEF and others are doing to increase the evidence on improving attainment for pupils with English as an additional language, to ensure all schools are using their funding in the most effective way.”