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Non-English speakers outperforming natives in exams

In four of the seven local authorities in the region, pupils whose first language isn’t English outperform native speakers in getting 5 A*-C grades at GCSE

Classroom exams

Children whose first language is not English are outperforming their native speaker peers at GCSE level in many parts of the West Midlands.

In four of the seven local authorities in the region, pupils whose first language isn’t English outperform native speakers in getting 5 A*-C grades at GCSE.

Figures from the Department for Education showed that more pupils in Sandwell, Wolverhampton, Solihull and Coventry who had learned English as an additional language – known as EAL learners – met the target than their native speaker peers, while the reverse was true in Birmingham, Walsall and Dudley.

A recent report from Birmingham City Council found that white working class boys are still under-performing at schools compared to children of other ethnic backgrounds.

The council revealed that the highest achievers at GCSE level were Indian girls from better off backgrounds with 87 per cent, while the city average for leaving school with five good GCSEs for all pupils is 60 per cent.

The government figures showed that in Sandwell, 53.5 per cent of native English speakers got 5 A*-C, including English and maths, compared with 56.6 per cent of non-native English speaking pupils, while in Wolverhampton, the figures were 59.8 per cent for native English speakers and 65.4 per cent for non-native English speakers.

In Solihull, the figures were 67 per cent for native English speakers and 69.3 per cent for non-native, while the biggest gap was in Coventry, where 54.6 per cent of native speaking pupils hit the target, compared with 62.6 per cent of pupils who had learned it as another language.

Lynn Fulford, associate dean of the Faculty of Education, Law and Social Sciences at Birmingham City University, said: “The evidence is actually not clear cut. EAL learners seem to outperform using the EBACC measure – those pupils who achieve GCSEs at C or above in English, Maths, science, a humanities subject and a foreign language – but do less well than non EAL pupils if the measure is simply 5 GCSEs at C or above in any five subjects.

“This could be because EAL pupils do well in their home language such as Urdu or Punjabi so are at an advantage using the EBACC measure. More positively, children who are fluent in their home language are likely to be at an advantage when learning English as they have good linguistic skills which can be transferred.

“Teacher training focuses on EAL so our teachers, particularly those training in areas such as Birmingham where there are comparatively high numbers of EAL learners, are well-prepared to teach them.”

 
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