English as a second language schoolchildren top of class at GCSE

Children in schools across the Black Country and Staffordshire who speak English as a second language outperformed native speakers in last year’s GCSEs, according to new figures.

Statistics released by the Department for Education (DfE) show that in the last academic year, 58.9 per cent of children in the Black Country who speak English as a first language got five or more GCSE passes at A* to C.

For non-native speakers of English, the figure was 5.7 per cent higher at 64.6 per cent.

The trend was matched in Staffordshire, where 66.2 per cent of youngsters who speak English as a second language hit the benchmark, bettering the 64.6 per cent of native speakers.

The gap was greatest in Wolverhampton, where 56.6 per cent of native English speakers met the GCSE benchmark, compared to 64.6 per cent of second-language speakers.

In Sandwell, almost a quarter of all pupils sitting GCSE exams in 2013/14 were non-native English speakers – by far the highest proportion in the region.

A total of 62.5 per cent of the 840 pupils who speak English as a second language rose to the expected level, 4.2 per cent more than those who speak it as their mother tongue.

Dudley saw 68 per cent of children with English as a second language achieve the benchmark, compared to 62.2 per cent of native speakers.

In Walsall, the gap was almost five per cent – with 58.4 per cent of English speakers achieving at least five GCSEs grades A* to C, while 63.1 per cent of those with English as an additional language achieved the grades.

Across England, 66.9 per cent of non-native speakers met the standard, while for first-language English speakers the figure was 65.6 per cent.

Last year, the Government allocated more than £240 million to schools across England and Wales to help pupils who have English as a second language, according to the DfE.

The figures back up new research by Oxford University boffins that reveal children with English as a second language usually catch up with their peers by the time they are 16.

The report’s authors, Professor Steve Strand and Professor Victoria Murphy, found that nationally at the age of five only 44 per cent of pupils who do not speak English as their first language have achieved a good level of development, compared to 54 per cent of other pupils.

But by the age of 16, this gap has narrowed significantly with 58.3 per cent achieving five or more A*- C GCSEs including English and maths, compared to 60.9 per cent of other pupils.

The researchers said that part of the reason they were doing so well was because many come from bilingual homes.

Profesor Strand added: “This research shows how important EAL funding is for driving up attainment levels of those most at risk of underachievement and it shows that local authorities need to continue prioritising this form of funding and schools should carefully target the pupils who will benefit most.”

Peter Madeley


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