Research will investigate ‘massive variation’ in achievement among EAL pupils

A £2 million fund has been launched to try to understand why some students who speak English as an additional language perform better than others.

Schools, charities, councils and social enterprises have been invited to bid for a share of the fund put forward by the Education Endowment Foundation (EEF), the Bell Foundation and Unbound Philanthropy.

The cash will support five projects, which will seek to find the most effective ways to improve the attainment of EAL pupils most at risk of underachievement.

It builds on research by the University of Oxford, commissioned by the three funders and published in February, which found a “massive variation” in the results achieved by pupils classified as EAL.

The researchers found that while some EAL pupils caught up with their peers by the time they reached 16, average attainment figures masked a huge range of different outcomes.

The study reveals that belonging to a certain ethnic group can play a significant part in low attainment. For example, White Other (which includes many from Eastern Europe), Black African and Pakistani were shown to have markedly lower outcomes than their peers, while speakers of Somali, Lingala and Lithuanian had especially low outcomes aged 16.

Attending a school outside London as an EAL student could also have a significant impact on outcomes, the researchers found.

Dr Kevan Collins, chief executive of the Education Endowment Foundation, said the projects would give even greater insight into what works in boosting the achievement of EAL pupils.

“Improving the attainment of students without English as a first language enables them to thrive and engage with the community and country they live in,” he said. “In order for schools and teachers to do this most effectively, it’s absolutely vital that they have access to high-quality evidence of what does and doesn’t work.”

See the EEL’s website for more details.

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