Mossbourne academy's high proportion of pupils with English as a first language: what impact, if any, does this have on its performance?

Ken Muller's picture
I’ve just had a very quick go at the new DfE tool for comparing schools .

One statistic which at first sight stood out in Hackney was that 69.3 % of Mossbourne pupils have English as a first language.

Living close to Mossbourne, this figure is surprisingly high to me, so I compared it with other local secondary schools.

Petchey Academy is even higher (71.8%). Stoke Newington School, however, is 40.3%, Haggerston 39.9%, Highbury Grove (in neighbouring Islington) 45.8% and Lamas (in neighbouring Waltham Forest) 38.7%.

Now, I have not researched the correlation between E2L and pupil performance - nor into whether there is any correlation at all between academy status and the proportion of E2L speaking pupils at a school.

But the disparity between Mossbourne and other local community schools in this respect is striking.

Could it go some way to explaining the high test and exam performance of its pupils?

Common sense, at least, (and personal, experience as a teacher) suggest to me that pupils having as their first language the language they are being taught in would give them some advantage.

I’d be interested in hearing what others think about this.
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Davis Lewis's picture
Tue, 13/09/2011 - 12:55

Children who speak English as an additional language are great assetts to the school and the community as a whole. The reality is that these children are at least bi lingual and often multi-lingual and let's face it a multi-lingual student is probably a very motivated and has additional intelligencess which a monolingual student would not have. Schools having these students are probably advantaged rather than disadvantaged and one day the teachers and schools in general will wake up to this reality. It is high time now to stop viewing EAL students as a problem.

Ken Muller's picture
Tue, 13/09/2011 - 13:34

David, In no way did I intend to suggest EAL students are a problem. I completely agree with what you say about their motivation and the fact that they should be regarded as an asset to their schools rather than a burden. It is the case, however, that recently arrived pupils can be disadvantaged in terms of educational achievement until they have acquired proficiency in English. (They can also, of course, be disdvantaged by institutionalised racism.) This disadvantage can be reflected in the grades they achieve in exam and test results.The question I am asking is: does the relative exclusion of EAL pupils by schools like Mossbourne and Petchet academies impact on their results? Another related question is: how (and why) does it come about that Mossbourne and Petchey admit a far higher percentage of English as a first language pupils than neighbouring schools?

botzarelli's picture
Tue, 13/09/2011 - 14:09

"how (and why) does it come about that Mossbourne and Petchey admit a far higher percentage of English as a first language pupils than neighbouring schools?"

Perhaps it is because parents who are only relatively newly arrived in the country are less likely to be aware of the differences between schools and more likely just to choose to send their children to whichever school might be nearest. There is a difference between schools excluding pupils from particular backgrounds and those pupils choosing not to go to them for reasons other than those caused by the schools themselves.

I'm not sure that EAL is a homogenous category. There will be some immigrants whose children are quickly encouraged to learn English to enable them to get on here. Others may be in larger communities where English is not necessary for general living and where there is a shared first language amongst the majority of their classmates other than English which is more functionally useful for them. There will also be a difference between schools which take a lot of children in outside the usual Year 7 entry point and those which are heavily over-subscribed (such as Mossbourne) - a recent immigrant who was in a different year group would find that the only available places would be in undersubscribed schools. Where there is a regular flow of non-Anglophone immigration in an area, the undersubscribed schools will inevitably take a greater proportion of EAL students overall, even if the proportion in Year 7 is only different through application rate.

Howard's picture
Tue, 13/09/2011 - 21:13

“how (and why) does it come about that Mossbourne and Petchey admit a far higher percentage of English as a first language pupils than neighbouring schools?”

It's likely that this is due to the different admissions criteria. While the primary criterion for admission to Stoke Newington is proximity to the school, children applying for Hackney academies are first banded according to the results of borough-wide entrance tests. Academies then take equal numbers of children from each band, according to how close they are to the academy. That way, they ensure that they get a balanced intake in terms of ability, including both high- and low-achievers.

Janet Downs's picture
Tue, 13/09/2011 - 14:14

It's the language spoken in the home that is the crucial factor, said the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), which reported:

"Among OECD countries the UK has a relatively large proportion of students with an immigrant background... With 10.6%, the UK has the 14th highest share of students with an immigrant background among OECD countries... Among OECD countries that have at least 5% of students with an immigrant background, most show a larger performance gap in favour of native students than is the case in the UK."

So the OECD found that the gap between pupils with or without an immigrant background is smaller than the gap in most OECD countries with at least 5% students with an immigrant background. The OECD attributes the language spoken at home as part of the reason:

" the UK, second generation students who speak the language of assessment at home perform at similar levels as students without an immigrant background. On the other hand, first and second generation students who do not speak the assessment language at home lag behind considerably."

Janet Downs's picture
Tue, 13/09/2011 - 14:15

The OECD says that language plays a "key role" in policies designed to integrate immigrant students or parents. Unfortunately, free classes in English as a Second Language (ESOL) for adults are now restricted to those adults on "active" benefits (eg job seekers' allowance). Other adults who wish to learn English must pay for their courses. This includes parents (usually mothers) who stay at home. As the role of parents in language development is crucial, free ESOL courses should still be funded. Fortunately, the Minister for Skills and Lifelong Learning, John Hayes, has recognised this. Colleges have been told they can use discretion about who they offer free ESOL class to. Unfortunately, there is no extra funding, so colleges offering free ESOL courses to, say, mothers not claiming benefits, will have to fund these courses themselves.

Ros Coffey's picture
Tue, 13/09/2011 - 14:31

As Chair of a school where 99+% have EAL, we knw that our children will start way behind the baseline but by the time they finish in Year 6, with the exception of some statemented children our pupils are above national average. This is due to three things, the teachers, the parents and the children themselves who have a real lust for learning. In each of the six primary schools where I have been a governor in Tower Hamlets this has always been the case, for their parents really get that education is the way out of poverty.

However whether we like it or not, there is still an element of white flight in our inner cities which may be focusing some parents on a particular school and if a school is requested by a larger number of the community, ergo, it is likely that that group will have a large proportion of pupils there.

On a purely anecdotal basis, I am not sure that I would necessarily agree with the OECD findings but would agree with Janet that the lack of funding for parental ESOL classes will not help.

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