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  • Writer's pictureFreya at Jacari

Proficiency in English: the key to academic success?

We were excited to see the Bell Foundation launch its latest report into how proficiency in English affects pupils’ academic outcomes. The research demonstrates the real need for and value of Jacari’s work with children who have English as an additional language (EAL).

EAL is a broad category, encompassing all children who are exposed to a language other than English in the home or local community during their early development. This means that the spectrum can range from the children of bilingual or multilingual families who are fluent in several languages including English to a refugee child recently arrived in the UK with no English spoken at home.

At Jacari, we work closely with teachers to identify those EAL students who are relatively new to English and have little English spoken at home, and whose families may be on lower incomes and unable to pay for additional tutoring support.

Use of EAL bands for English proficiency

We ask our teachers to tell us the pupils’ level of English proficiency using the EAL Bands scale, with A being "New to English" and E being "Fluent". This scale has been used consistently by schools in Wales to record pupils’ English levels, and was used briefly in England, however the Department for Education removed it from schools’ reporting requirements in January 2018. At Jacari, we strongly agree with the researchers' conclusion that it is crucial that the Government reinstates this measure as soon as possible in England, if we are to track and improve outcomes for EAL pupils.

Whilst EAL in and of itself is not a useful indicator of how well pupils will do at school, the research found that proficiency in English is strongly related to levels of educational achievement at KS1 and KS2. Young people at band A-B (new to English/early acquisition) tend to achieve at lower levels than native English speakers of their age; those who are developing competence (Band C) tend to score just below or around the national average, but those who are competent/fluent (Band D/E) often achieve at higher levels and have better outcomes than first language speakers.

How long does it take to reach the highest levels of proficiency?

For the first time this research also demonstrates how long it typically takes for pupils to transition from one band to another. The majority transition from A to B within 2 years, and from A to C within 4 years. After 6 years, only a third of the pupils studied by the researchers had actually transitioned from Band A to Band D or E. In other words, it takes two-thirds of pupils who are new to English at the start of Reception more than six years to progress to the highest levels of proficiency, which is significantly more than the 3 years that the Department for Education currently provides funding for. This is important as it demonstrates that EAL pupils who are acquiring proficiency need additional support in order to achieve academic success - and that’s where we at Jacari step in!

The vital role of Jacari tuition

Our programme of tailored 1:1 support from a Jacari tutor helps children to achieve academic linguistic proficiency more quickly. This allows our pupils to fully participate in school and access the curriculum and, as a result, to fulfil their academic potential. This is particularly vital after prolonged school closures and absences from school due to the Covid-19 pandemic which has resulted in language learning loss and children with EAL falling ever further behind with their education.

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