The performance of EAL pupils at Key Stage 2 in 2018: the headlines
The national Key Stage 2 data released in December have much to tell us about the performance of EAL pupils across England and the expectations we might have for our own EAL pupils. I will start, however, with a data health warning. I have long taken the view that performance data rarely give you secure answers, but they often do help you to ask the right questions.
2018 again features a small (2 percentage point gap) between EAL and non-EAL pupils on the key attainment measure of reading, writing and mathematics at the expected level. This gap disappears when you aggregate LA outcomes and exclude pupils in English schools for fewer than two years. So 65% is now the EAL benchmark. The gender gap for EAL pupils has increased slightly and it has decreased slightly for non -EAL pupils. RWM Higher also shows no difference between EAL and non-EAL.
The attainment gap is not consistent across subjects. In reading just 71% of EAL pupils reached the expected standard compared to 77% of non-EAL pupils. In writing and maths the outcomes were much closer with EAL pupils just behind in writing (77% compared to 79%) and just ahead in maths (77% compared to 75%).
Of course, not all EAL pupils are the same. Comparing your own school to the national benchmark can be misleading because there is significant variation in performance among the different groups where EAL is a major factor. Pakistani and Other White pupils both perform below the national average. Even here we need to acknowledge difference. A majority of Pakistani pupils are likely to have been in the UK the majority of the Other White group are likely to have started their schooling in another country.
Chinese, Indian and Bangladeshi pupils are, as in 2017, largely above the national average in terms of expected performance. For Bangladeshi pupils 2018 saw higher than expected performance above the national average for the first time.
When we turn to progress measures we see that EAL pupils exceed the national average in writing and maths, regardless of ethnic background. What is more, EAL pupils’ progress is significantly better in statistical terms. If we take, for example, Chinese performance in reading, we find the progress score is 1.2. However, the statistical model used to calculate means we can only say with confidence that is between 0.9 and 1.4. However, 0.9 is well above the national upper confidence interval of 0.0. When we look at the performance of the predominantly EAL groups, in reading only Pakistani pupils fail to exceed the national average and in writing and maths all of these groups are significantly above the national average. The performance of Other White pupils deserves attention here. Despite lower than average levels of attainment Other White pupils consistently exceed the national and EAL progress benchmarks. Indeed, in reading they match the performance of Chinese pupils who are the best performing group on all other measures.
When we turn to performance at school level, overall numbers in particular schools are often too small to have much statistical significance and numbers of EAL pupils and specific ethnic groups even smaller. Nonetheless, the EAL data is publicly available. It is a little tricky to handle, but definitely worth a look. There are, for instance, 55 schools in which exactly half the cohort were EAL pupils. Among them is a Catholic primary school in Leeds where just 25% of its EAL pupils achieved the expected standard in RWM. There is also a non-faith school in Islington where 80% of EAL pupils achieved the expected standard in RWM. The schools have similar demographic profiles. Around 25% of pupils are eligible for free school meals, just over 20% are of Black African heritage and the next largest ethnic group is the Other White category. That is not enough data to make a secure judgment, but it is certainly enough to ask some good questions.