I beg to move,
That this House has considered Government policy on support for pupils with English as an additional language.
It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Hollobone, and I welcome the Minister for Schools, whom I have known for many years, to his place in the new Government.
This is a timely debate, not for outlining a detailed policy proposal or indeed criticising what has gone before, but for inviting the Department for Education and its Ministers to explore options for how they can assist a small number of localities and local education authorities to deal with the consequences of very large-scale immigration and pupil mobility, and specifically the impact of these factors, particularly on primary school education, the provision of primary school places, teacher recruitment and retention, and—most critically—educational attainment.
As someone once said, “It’s déjà vu all over again,” because, Mr Hollobone, you were also in the Chair when I secured a similar debate with the same Minister on 15 February 2011, which was on the pupil premium. In that Adjournment debate, I raised similar but not identical matters to those I will raise today.
On that occasion—[Interruption.]
Order. Mr Jackson may now carry on. Of course, he could simply refer us to the remarks he made in the debate that he just mentioned and sit down. However, I hope that he will not do so, and that he will add some additional material.
Thank you, Mr Hollobone. After that alarm, I trust that there will be no incendiary activity in the next 90 minutes.
On that occasion in 2011, I argued—evidently, it transpired, not that persuasively—that although the pupil premium was indeed an excellent idea and a useful tool to assist the most deserving pupils by the deployment of scarce resources, it was nevertheless a blunt instrument. That was because it only related to deprivation as measured by the sole indicator of access to free school meals. It was perfectly possible to nuance and finesse that criterion to drive up education standards in discrete circumstances.
That proved to be the case: in the last Parliament, the coalition Government extended the provision of the flat-rate pupil premium to looked-after children—it was called “pupil premium plus”—and later to the children of service personnel, quite rightly. The deprivation indicator and eligibility criteria were also broadened, as were the differential payment rates between deprived pupils in primary schools and secondary schools. Between 2011 and 2015, per capita funding rose from £430 to £935 for deprived pupils in secondary schools, to £1,100 for deprived pupils in primary schools and to £1,900 for looked-after children. It was £300 for service children.
I am proud to be associated with the Government that did that, and they did it for the right reason, because there is plenty of evidence that the pupil premium has had considerable impact cumulatively across a wide range of LEAs in supporting disadvantaged children and improving their educational attainment. The Department for Education report published in July 2013 under the auspices of TNS BMRB, Tecis, the Centre for Equity in Education, and the Universities of Manchester and Newcastle demonstrated such positive outcomes, as did Ofsted’s pupil premium update, which was published last July.
Naturally, I am delighted not only that the pupil premium worked but that the new Conservative Government remain committed to maintaining it. For the current financial year, it will be £2.545 billion in total. Indeed, one in six children in the Peterborough LEA were in receipt of free school meals in 2013-14.
I accept the central premise that Ministers have prayed in aid of the pupil premium, namely that the link between free school meal eligibility and underachievement is strong. That is undoubtedly the case, but must we accept that the pupil premium cannot be a more flexible vehicle in resource allocation? Let us be clear about what the pupil premium has not addressed historically, and still does not address. There is now no de facto targeted funding for those LEAs that, by dint of their economic profile or geographical circumstances, have to accommodate and deliver the best educational outcomes on an equal statutory footing with all other LEAs to students whose principal language is not English.
The pupil premium has been reconfigured, rebooted, nuanced, reset and expanded, but regrettably it still fails to take account of the real impact of large numbers of English as an additional language pupils. With the demise of the ethnic minority achievement grant, dedicated funding has effectively been removed for EAL pupils. Such funding was rolled up into the dedicated schools grant in 2011-12 and effectively subsumed into mainstream schools funding.
Current LEA funding formulae allow for support for LEA pupils only for a maximum of three years, and the bulk of LEAs elect to fund pupils for less time than that, either 12 or 24 months. That is despite the fact that research indicates that it will take between five and seven years for EAL pupils to match the performance of peers whose first language is English.
There are national initiatives, such as the British Council’s EU-funded Nexus programme. That is good as far as it goes, but it is a national programme that cannot provide bespoke local solutions that reflect the knowledge, skills and experience of teachers, governors, parents and LEAs to deliver the most appropriate local education service.
Each LEA and each school has its own priorities. For instance, if a school was seeking to get the best outcomes for a Somali or west African child in Southwark, that would be a completely different challenge from the challenge of dealing with a Slovak or Lithuanian child in Peterborough, Boston, Wisbech or other parts of eastern England.
It is disappointing that the strong advocacy and campaigning by Westminster City Council for a cash passport system for new entrant EAL pupils has yet to result in any Government action or even, as I understand it, a commitment to investigate the efficacy of such a system in a pilot scheme. I am at a loss to understand why EAL has not featured more prominently in the analysis of the impact on results of the pupil premium by both the DFE and Ofsted since 2011.
This is not a generalist complaint about schools funding, as I am well aware that the Government are committed to rebalancing historical anomalies and unfair funding allocations by providing an extra £390 million for the least well funded education authorities in the current year, 2015-16. Also, in the interests of transparency and lest I be accused by the Minister of being churlish or ungrateful, I concede that he himself committed to Peterborough LEA an exceptional circumstances grant of £1.5 million in 2010-11 to deal with the EAL-related pressures, for which we were extremely grateful. However, that does not negate my case for a strategic and systematic appraisal of such challenges over the medium and long term, and for a focus on those LEAs that are most seriously affected by these unprecedented population pressures. The fact remains that there is effectively no provision for EAL support in pupil premium funding. EAL is only one of a number of pupil-led factors used by local authorities to top up their basic allocation per pupil within the schools block grant funding. In practical terms, such considerations are effectively crowded out by other factors, such as deprivation and prior attainment.
For a small group of LEAs, the pupil premium therefore goes only part of the way in dealing with the huge societal and demographic changes and, indeed, massive challenges they face, centred on EAL issues. Peterborough is encumbered by a vast array of such challenges. It has been described as being like a ‘London Borough without the funding largesse’. Although the number of EAL pupils in England has risen by 21% since 2011, to 1.19 million, in Peterborough it has risen by 46%, from 7,100 pupils to 10,395 pupils—the equivalent of eight new two-form entry primary schools. The largest rise in Peterborough is in primary schools in years 1, 2 and 3, where over 40% of pupils are EAL. The number has risen by 34% across the city. Nearly 70% of pupils are EAL in the primary schools in my constituency.
Two Peterborough schools, Gladstone Primary and Beeches Primary, both in the Central ward, have more than 90% of EAL pupils. In one Peterborough school, 192 pupils speak a language that is called “other than English.” The biggest increase is among Lithuanian speakers, with 410 extra pupils: a 63% increase since 2012. Change is rapid. At one secondary school in Peterborough, two years ago, 40% of year 7 pupils were EAL; the figure is now 70%.
I congratulate the hon. Gentleman on securing this debate. Given that it was based on the numbers of pupils involved, is he making a case for the reinstatement of the ethnic minority achievement grant as a way of solving the problem that he outlines?
I will elaborate on my reasoning, but it is a matter of public record that I cited the effective abolition of the grant, in so far as it was rolled up into the mainstream generalist dedicated schools grant in 2011. The hon. Gentleman knows that there was some specialist opposition to that decision. There was a feeling that a deprivation-linked indicator alone was not sufficient to take account of the large changes in school rolls. One of those changes is churn, which I will talk about shortly.
There has been huge organic population growth in Peterborough, driven by new house building and inward migration, rising by 17% from 156,000 to 184,000 in the 10 years to the 2011 census. It also has a younger age profile than the east of England and the UK as a whole. Since 2007, the city council has spent £110 million on a capital programme to create 8,282 new school places. Even so, Peterborough was identified by the DFE and the Local Government Association in 2013 as the fifth most over-capacity LEA in England, with its being predicted as having a 24% deficit in primary school places by 2017.
The city also has the second highest rate of in-year school admissions in England. Such churn is enormously disruptive and resource intensive, and has a major impact on educational attainment. The 2013 Royal Society of Arts report, “Between the Cracks”, estimated the effect of each change of school on a pupil as equivalent to the loss of one term’s worth of progress. Of the 1,263 headcount increase between October 2013 and October 2014, 958 of those pupils have English as an additional language: 76% of the increase.
It is not just eastern European children who present big challenges for schools. Peterborough’s long-standing Pakistani community, and the growing preponderance of Panjabi and Urdu speakers—even fourth generation—for cultural reasons, results in many young Pakistani-heritage pupils struggling with English reading and writing. In 2003, the DFE commissioned a piece of research from Leeds University, entitled “Writing in English as an Additional Language at Key Stage 2”, which examined this phenomenon.
Non-standard entry, challenging work conditions, a higher preponderance of deprivation and poor parenting and inadequate league table results at key stage 2, all make effective and suitable recruitment and retention of good and talented teachers an even bigger challenge than that faced by more traditional LEAs.
Not long ago, a well-respected primary school head told me that in the previous week a Czech Roma family of six children with no English, who were poorly socialised and parented, had been enrolled in her school. Although that is not typical, it is not untypical for Peterborough. Not every head, school or LEA has the skills, confidence or expertise to cope with that, but Peterborough has had to cope—and over many years, too.
Of course, the news is not all bad. It is appropriate to give credit to the work being undertaken in Peterborough to tackle what seems to be a series of insurmountable barriers and pay tribute to the heroic efforts of classroom teachers, teaching assistants and headteachers, and to those in the LEA, and others, who despite everything have succeeded in developing an innovative EAL strategy.
In an era when many LEAs have disbanded their in-house EAL specialist teams, Peterborough has grown its own talent and utilised the expertise from the team that developed the EAL element of the successful London Challenge programme. Thirty-eight schools have received on-site training and/or consultancy, with a focus on school-based training. West Town Primary Academy, Fulbridge Academy, Gladstone Primary, Longthorpe Primary, the Beeches Primary, Thorpe Primary, Highlees Primary Academy, and Ken Stimpson Community School in Werrington, have all led the way as hub pathfinders and exemplar institutions. An EAL reference group has been monitoring their performance and developing new ideas through school-to-school contact and online training, and data-sharing, with high-quality written materials and networking, all progressed against a detailed implementation plan.
Inevitably, this bespoke strategy comes at some cost to mainstream school budgets received through the direct schools grant. The cost to the LEA in the previous financial year was almost £750,000, a not-trivial sum for a medium-sized unitary authority. It is a mark of the strategy’s success that the LEA has been able to defray a proportion of its revenue costs, to an extent, through selling on its skills and expertise to other education professionals. It is appropriate to recognise those who have worked so hard to develop this important specialist work in the LEA and beyond. I thank Jonathan Lewis, among others, Gary Perkins and Graham Smith, who is in the Public Gallery, and the new leader of the city council, Councillor John Holdich.
In 2014, EAL attainment at key stage 2 rose by a modest seven percentage points, but that rise halved Peterborough’s EAL attainment gap. Despite this, 12 out of the city’s 54 primary schools missed the benchmark for the key stage 2 standard assessment tests in reading, writing and maths, and it was disappointing that the city languished at 148th out of 152 local authority areas for the performance of youngsters at key stage 2.
In many respects, the issues I raised in February 2011 are much the same, if not more acute and pressing. So I beg your indulgence, Mr Hollobone, because they bear repeating, and you invited me to do so. I said at the time:
“I will not go into minute detail about how resource-intensive those children are in terms of lesson planning, teacher training, and interfacing with pupils’ parents, many of whom do not speak English. Culturally, those parents do not need to speak English—many are in low-wage, low-skill occupations where the need to speak English is not apparent. For example, even if Polish children, who are extremely good at science and mathematics and are generally very gifted, are up to speed in English and mathematics, when they go home there is no cultural pre-disposition to speak English. It is very difficult for them. Other children, whose parents are less skilled, from, say, Lithuania or the Czech Republic, are in a situation where their parents’ contract for packaging fruit or picking vegetables in the fields of south Lincolnshire, Cambridgeshire or Northamptonshire finishes after six months. They then leave their rented accommodation and withdraw the children from school, or they may go to another part of the UK. It is debilitating and resource-intensive to train teachers and to have the capacity to deliver real improvements and added value for those particular families.”—[Official Report, 15 February 2011; Vol. 523, c. 244WH.]
The Minister and his colleagues are committed to consulting on bringing in a national schools funding formula, and EAL will inevitably play a part in such calculations. Given that the Government remain strongly committed to maintaining relatively generous ring-fenced allocations for pupil premium, is it too much to ask that they consider developing a discrete and dedicated EAL challenge fund? That fund could be aimed at a small minority of LEAs with a demonstrable record of success in creating, inter alia, EAL hubs, centres of excellence, skills and knowledge bases, human resources, leadership, and strategies that can be audited and that are outcomes-linked. The fund should be related to a small number of key performance indicators linked directly to education outcomes.
The Minister would benefit from seeing the work being undertaken in my constituency. After our debate in 2011 he came to meet the excellent team at Fulbridge Academy headed by principal Iain Erskine. The academy has gone from strength to strength, given that more than 100 languages are spoken there and it is one of the largest schools in England. It was rated as outstanding by Ofsted in the last inspection. If the Minister accepts my cordial invitation to visit my constituency, he will see for himself the exceptional difficulties faced by teachers and the city council.
I ask the Minister to honour the undertakings made to me in 2011, in good faith, to look at the issue seriously, weigh up the evidence and talk to the professionals who helped to deliver the London Challenge, as well as to do a proper, rigorous and robust cost-benefit analysis and to consider the longer-term savings that could be achieved by a modest, well-targeted and ring-fenced budget. I fear that teachers in Peterborough cannot bear the burdens placed upon them without extra help for much longer. There is a strong case to be made, but I hope merely to have provoked a much needed debate this morning.
The Minister made a superb speech last night—the hon. Member for Cardiff West (Kevin Brennan) might not concur—on Second Reading of the Education and Adoption Bill, speaking with great passion about the moral imperative of education, the concept of one nation and driving up standards. His words were resonant:
“The Bill is about social justice. It is another important step to ensuring that all our state schools are delivering the quality of education currently found in only the best and that our adoption system is swift and efficient, so children can escape the unhappiness of a life of neglect or the uncertainty of life in care as swiftly as possible.”
Later he said:
“We want those standards for everyone, regardless of social or economic background. That is what we mean by social justice. It involves taking on the vested interests, which is why in this Bill we are asking for the powers to say no to those who frustrate or delay improvement—enemies of aspiration and rigour. If hon. Members across the House believe in social justice…I urge them to support this Bill.”—[Official Report, 22 June 2015; Vol. 597, c. 722-723.]
Those fine words are true to the commitment to help all the children in my constituency. Whatever their background, race, creed or colour, they just happen to be in Peterborough. Irrespective of all such factors, every child in my constituency and in those of other Members deserves the best possible education. With some thought, a proper plan and a little political willpower, that is what they can get.
It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Hollobone. I will talk a bit about my experience of pupils with EAL needs in my previous job as a teacher.
Scotland has a long and rich history of multilingualism. Throughout the ages, we have had various languages running through our culture—Scots, Gaelic, Irish and English.
I thank the hon. Gentleman; I will add Welsh to that list.
Over the past 20 years, we have seen an influx of people with different languages and cultures. EAL pupils have had a huge, positive impact on our schools in Glasgow. I taught in an inner-city comprehensive in Glasgow where asylum seekers and refugees were housed in the late ’90s. We had a huge number of EAL pupils, and attainment levels increased almost instantly—not only were those pupils delighted to be in school, but they had a positive effect on the native Glaswegian pupils. Throughout the school, we saw a huge benefit from EAL pupils.
The hon. Member for Peterborough (Mr Jackson) talked about the impact on primary schools of large-scale immigration, in terms of teacher recruitment and attainment. I fundamentally disagree with him about attainment and I will talk more about why attainment levels benefit when there are pupils with different languages, but I agree that there is an issue with teacher recruitment. We need to be training and recruiting more teachers to support pupils with additional needs.
The Scottish Government are following the European Union with the “one plus two” languages learning policy. The “one” refers to pupils’ native tongue and the “two” to the additional languages, which could be English, French or Spanish. More and more we are seeing a rise in Gaelic-medium education; for some of those pupils, English is not their first language, so they are also getting English support. In Scotland, a lot of parents now want to send their children to Gaelic schools, and attainment levels are increasing hugely. Such pupils do not learn English until the age of seven, and by eight they have overtaken their peers in English-speaking schools.
There are huge benefits to learning two languages, and the Polish children that the hon. Member for Peterborough mentioned will have those benefits. My children attend Gaelic-medium education. Unfortunately, I have no more than pidgin Gaelic, so I cannot support them with their Gaelic education, and they speak only their native language at home, as the Polish children do. However, they are fluent in Gaelic and in English. I suggest to the hon. Gentleman that Polish pupils who go home and speak only Polish will be getting two languages, so they are being further challenged and will develop far more skills.
The hon. Lady is making an interesting point, but she is missing the kernel of my argument. As far as I know, there is no district, region or parliamentary constituency in Scotland where more than about 5% of people speak Scottish Gaelic, and a small city in Scotland will certainly never have experienced a 17% population rise in 10 years, with the vast bulk of the new residents speaking Gaelic. We cannot, therefore, necessarily compare the two situations, and the hon. Lady is perhaps rather obscuring my central premise.
In areas such as the Western Isles, Gaelic is still the native tongue for many people—the figure is far more than 5%, so my hon. Friend the Member for Na h-Eileanan an Iar (Mr MacNeil) would probably disagree with the hon. Gentleman.
On the number of pupils coming in with English as an additional language, I am not sure that any area in Scotland has a figure of 70%, but we do have figures of up to 20%. However, I am trying to explain the benefits. Certainly, in the school I was in, which had a huge number of EAL pupils—up to 50%—attainment rose greatly.
The hon. Gentleman spoke about the additional funding under the pupil premium, which is for disadvantaged pupils. He spoke about using some of that money for EAL pupils, but there is an argument for looking at dedicated funding. These pupils have a positive impact, and we need to see how we can support them. Unfortunately, in Glasgow, the Labour administration recently cut 15 EAL teachers, despite the best efforts of the opposition in the city council. That was a major blow.
We need to look at the benefits that these pupils bring. It is important to remember that we have had a £20 billion net benefit from having EU immigrants in our country and our communities, but we need to look at how we fully include them in schools and training.
The all-party group on modern languages stated:
“speaking only English is as much of a disadvantage as speaking no English.”
In terms of intellectual development and pupil attainment, having multilingual pupils is a benefit and makes great educational sense.
I agree with the hon. Gentleman that, unless we support teachers, schools and LEAs so that they can provide a proper environment in which these pupils can learn, we will have issues.
I realise that this does not affect Scotland, but the English baccalaureate is a combination of GCSEs, including a modern language. Would the hon. Lady support the Government’s endeavours to get all pupils to take it to the age of 16, to ensure that more young people take a foreign language to GCSE?
Taking languages at GCSE is a matter for pupils at that point in their school careers. The baccalaureate system is really robust, with pupils looking at different areas and having specialisms in different subjects, and that is really positive. However, the issue is more about language learning in the early years. There will be huge benefits if we can deal with that, whatever the additional languages are—English might be the additional language for some pupils, while, for others, it might be French, Spanish or Gaelic. The way we go about language learning is not conducive to a real, deep understanding of a language. The learning must take place far earlier, and it must be far more serious. We start picking these languages up at 11 or 12, which is why the Scottish Government are introducing them much earlier, at primary level.
To finish, I would like to talk once again about the positive impact in our schools of having pupils with an additional language, be it Polish, Urdu or Gaelic. That is positive for attainment, and we welcome those pupils in our schools, but it is important that we put in place structures that will allow them to learn properly and to access the education we provide for them.
It is extremely pleasant to serve under your chairmanship once again, Mr Hollobone. I congratulate the hon. Member for Peterborough (Mr Jackson) again on securing the debate. He set it on fire when he spoke—at least, the fire alarm went off when he started speaking. It might be a good idea if you made representations to the House authorities and pointed out that, if they want to carry out a routine fire alarm test, they should perhaps do so when we are not debating in this Chamber. The interruption did not, however, prevent the hon. Gentleman from making a compelling case about the issues raised in his part of the country by the numbers of schoolchildren with English as an additional language.
I would like to say from the outset—this is the tone that hon. Members have adopted—that we should celebrate the diversity and cultural richness that result from immigration to the UK, as well as the undoubted benefits to education from having such a diverse population. Yes, there are obviously challenges, which we are debating, but we should not let this moment pass without celebrating the cultural diversity and richness that immigration has brought to this country for many hundreds of years.
The hon. Gentleman talked about the pupil premium. He described the practical challenges that the abolition of the ethnic minority achievement grant is beginning to cause in the system—the pressures that are coming about as a result of getting rid of that ring-fenced, pupil numbers-based approach to provision for pupils with English as an additional language. The grant might not have been perfect or perfectly targeted, but that does not take away from the fact that it was the right approach in principle to offer additional support based on pupil numbers and the challenges faced by schools in different parts of the country.
It has been interesting, given my background—I had some interest in doing educational research—that everyone has talked eloquently about the need for teachers and teachers’ development, with teachers being able to support pupils. Does the hon. Gentleman agree, however, that this goes beyond even the teaching profession? In Scotland, for example, we are blessed with a range of well-qualified speech and language therapists, many of whom have specialisms in dealing with pupils, particularly at the primary stages, who have multilingual assets. If we are going to support those pupils, we need to look beyond simply the teaching profession, at the specialists who surround it, who can give further support.
I agree with the hon. Gentleman’s remarks. Of course, speech and language therapists also play a very important role in other parts of the United Kingdom. I have always believed strongly in providing services around the child, beyond the school. That was part of the children’s plan, which I was involved in drawing up under the previous Government. I recommend it to the hon. Gentleman for when he has some spare time to do some additional research, which is his background. As a researcher, he will be aware—bearing in mind some of the other comments in our debate—of Professor Steve Strand and Professor Victoria Murphy of the University of Oxford. They have done extensive research on the impact of English as an additional language in classrooms that shows that some of the lurid stories in the popular press about its having a negative impact on other children’s education are completely wrong. When we look at the evidence, we see that the contrary is the case.
The hon. Member for Peterborough made the case strongly for looking again at the need for a ring-fenced budget for EAL. I know that the Minister has a pathological dislike of anything that is ring-fenced or that directs schools to act in a particular manner, and an almost religious faith that they will always do the right thing in any circumstances, but there is a case, which the hon. Gentleman made out, to look at the matter again. I hope that the Minister will set aside his usual dislike of these things and look at it with an open mind. The hon. Gentleman quoted the Minister’s words at the end of last night’s debate. Fine words are all very well, but ultimately we have to will the means in order for a policy to have an impact. There must be a transmission mechanism for a policy to translate into action on the ground. Unless we will the means and unless the Government take a lead, the problem will continue to grow, because the budget system in place does not give an incentive or the necessary direction to ensure that resources are spent in this area.
The hon. Member for Glasgow North West (Carol Monaghan) spoke today, and I again congratulate her on her maiden speech last night. I am sorry that the early hour at which the winding-up speeches started meant that I was not able to do so with her present. That was not her fault. It was an entirely unexpected development.
I apologise to the hon. Lady. Clearly, my memory is going if I cannot even remember what happened last evening. I do remember her very fine maiden speech and I again congratulate her on it. She pointed out today the benefits to attainment of having more than one language. I completely agree, not least as my own daughter attended a Welsh medium school and benefited greatly, as I did; my Welsh improved greatly as a result of her attendance at that school. The hon. Lady pointed out that the Gaelic language is predominant in parts of Scotland, including the constituency of her hon. Friend the Member for Na h-Eileanan an Iar (Mr MacNeil), who often reminds us of that in the main Chamber. As she pointed out, English as an additional language need be no hindrance; in fact, it can be the opposite and be of great benefit to educational attainment.
As of June 2015, 1.2 million children in England—17.2% of all pupils—had a first language other than English. Until April 2011, as we have heard, the ethnic minority achievement grant, which was set up originally in 1999, provided funding based on the numbers of children from underachieving ethnic minority groups and of pupils with English as an additional language. In 2011, that grant amounted to about £200 million of support across the country. Now, that has been absorbed into the school grant; and as ever when these things are absorbed, somehow or other some money falls from the table. Ultimately, the amount of money in the direct schools grant may or may not reflect that funding, but certainly schools can now receive additional money for pupils with English as an additional language from their local authority and school forums. School forums decide at local level whether any school receives an EAL factor to its funding because of the number of those pupils. The minimum funding from the Government in the 2015-16 school year was £466 for primary and £1,130 for secondary. That is what they have identified would need to be spent.
The problem is that there is no compulsion for local authorities to include an EAL factor in their funding, nor for the value of that to be at the minimum level or above. The Government’s funding rules stipulate that a factor can be paid only for the first three years of compulsory schooling with respect to the pupil with English as an additional language. That is an odd stipulation, given the Government’s professed desire to allow schools to decide at local level what the best thing to do is. I hope that the Minister can explain why that rule is still in place.
Academy schools, of course, receive their funding via the Education Funding Agency, which uses the same funding formula as the local authority, so funding levels for children mirror those for neighbouring maintained schools. However, there is considerable variation among local authorities when it comes to EAL funding. Under this system, if we can call it a system, there is no accountability mechanism whatever for schools’ use of that funding, which essentially means that schools are not obliged to use the funding to meet the needs of pupils with English as an additional language.
There is a very interesting report by the Education Endowment Foundation, and this is a point of agreement between me and the Minister for Schools, although with regard to last night’s debate, perhaps he should be renamed the Academies Minister, as maintained schools never get a mention or any praise whatever from the Government in speeches in the House. Perhaps he will correct that in the future. There is one point of agreement between us, which is that the Education Endowment Foundation is a very good initiative. The Government have provided support to it, and we support that provision because in a sense the foundation is the beginnings of what I talked about last night—a NICE for education, a national institute of clear evidence, as I called it.
The Education Endowment Foundation looks at the research evidence on what works in education policy. That is extremely welcome, as so much of education policy seems to be based on think-tank quackery. The foundation’s report on English as an additional language is very interesting. One of its key findings was that the attainment of pupils with English as an additional language varies widely. At the end of reception, only 44% of EAL pupils are recorded as having achieved a good level of development, compared with 54% of non-EAL pupils. The gap narrows considerably, as we would expect, by the age of 16, when 58.3% of EAL pupils achieve five A* to C GCSEs, compared with 60.9% of non-EAL pupils; by some measures, EAL pupils do better, particularly in mathematics. However, that masks, as the report interestingly points out, the huge range of outcomes within that for different groups of EAL pupils. That makes sense, because there will be a very big difference between an EAL pupil who is the son or daughter of a French banker living in London and some of the pupils whom the hon. Member for Peterborough described, who do not have the same sorts of advantages when they go to school for the first time in this country.
In addition, the report points out that certain factors determine whether pupils are significantly more likely to underachieve. One is entry to England from abroad during a key stage at school. Such EAL pupils tend to be about a year behind their non-EAL peers. Changing school during a key stage is a significant factor. The report says:
“Students joining their primary school in Y5/6 have lower achievement than those joining in Y3/4.”
Being from particular ethnic minority groups also has an impact on pupil outcomes, with a particular impact on speakers of Somali, Lingala and Lithuanian at the age of 16. The report also finds:
“Almost half of schools with a majority of EAL pupils are located outside London.”
That emphasises the hon. Gentleman’s point that we should not simply think of this as an issue affecting London. The report also points out:
“High proportions of EAL pupils in a school do not have a negative impact on the attainment and progress of other pupils.”
It is useful to have research evidence, and the other evidence I quoted earlier, confirming that that myth is incorrect.
The hon. Gentleman says that the presence of a high proportion of EAL pupils does not have a negative impact on other pupils, but my experience is that it has an extremely positive impact on other pupils. In fact, the presence of such pupils in their class gives other students something to aim for because they can see a different way of working, which is a huge advantage.
That is my experience, but I am quoting the academic research to get us into the habit of using evidence to make education policy, which is something that has disappeared in recent years. The Education Endowment Foundation report backs up the research I quoted earlier from the University of Oxford. It says:
“the percentage of EAL students in the school had minimal association with student attainment or progress when controls for student background were included.”
EAL students obviously bring richness and cultural diversity, and they do so without affecting attainment.
As a result of its research, the Education Endowment Foundation makes certain recommendations. The Minister will be intimately aware of the details of the research, being briefed so well by his excellent civil servants and, as he is likely to have a bit of time, I hope that he will respond to those recommendations. The first recommendation is that schools should be accountable for showing attainment impact. It says:
“Schools should be held accountable for how their EAL funding contributes to improving pupil attainment”.
Schools are held accountable for the pupil premium in the same way, as the hon. Member for Peterborough said earlier. If schools are to be held accountable for how they spend the pupil premium, surely there should be a way to hold them accountable for how they use public money provided for the specific purpose of helping pupils with English as an additional language. Even if schools are not told exactly how many pennies they have to spend in their particular location, surely there should be some way in which they can be held accountable for whether they are doing what that public money is intended for. The recommendation continues:
“Although the report finds that where EAL pupils have attended English schools for the whole of a key stage they make greater progress than non-EAL pupils, and indeed that by age 16 they have caught up…this reflects a long history of considerable additional funding being directed to address language learning needs.”
Considerable under-attainment by specific groups might be masked by that general finding, so the Government need to listen to that recommendation.
The report’s second recommendation clearly follows from the first. It is that:
“EAL funding should be targeted at those most at risk of under-attainment.”
Again, the problem is that the current definition of EAL does not reflect a student’s proficiency in the English language or their exposure to it at home. Schools need to hone how they identify the language and learning needs of children within the EAL category to ensure that funds are targeted at those who most need them, and the Government should do the same because they are able to identify those parts of the country where that is a particular problem. The Minister should reflect on that and consider what action should be taken.
Obviously, the three-year cap on the availability of additional support might be more than some pupils need because of the factors associated with how proficient they are likely to become in the English language, including their home life and background, whereas other pupils are likely to need considerably more than three years. The research evidence clearly shows that it will take longer than the three years of allocated funding for some pupils, which is why I do not understand the Government’s rigidity about the three-year rule when, philosophically, they seem to be in favour of being more flexible about funding. There is a strong case for additional funding to be made available to schools with such EAL pupils to ensure that they are able to achieve their full potential. Professor Strand’s report states:
“Fluency in English is…the biggest factor influencing the degree of support an individual student will require, and schools need to be able to assess this need accurately using their own procedures and expertise.”
The third major finding of the Education Endowment Foundation report is that:
“More research is needed into the best strategies to improve outcomes for EAL pupils… there is a lack of robust research evidence on effective approaches and interventions to raise the attainment of EAL pupils. There were no…randomised controlled trials or studies where the effectiveness of the intervention was evaluated by an independent review team.”
More research certainly needs to be done, and I hope that the Minister will tell us his view on that. Is the Department helping to facilitate, undertake or fund research to ensure that such public resources as are being allocated to this are getting to the right pupils and are having the correct impact?
I have no wish to be disobliging towards the hon. Gentleman, but he says that there is not enough research into the impact of EAL on educational attainment, yet earlier he blithely agreed with the hon. Member for Glasgow North West (Carol Monaghan) that EAL pupils, of themselves, are a good thing vis-à-vis the educational attainment of non-EAL children. He cannot have it both ways. Either there is robust, empirical evidence to support the former or he is right on the latter. It cannot be both.
The hon. Gentleman is never disobliging. I will examine the record very carefully. I think what I have said throughout this debate has been internally consistent, but I will check my earlier comments in case I have contradicted myself. If I have done so, I will give myself a good talking to later on, but I think I have been consistent in saying that such research as there is indicates that EAL pupils do not have a negative impact on others in the classroom. The third conclusion, which he attributed to me but is actually the conclusion of the Education Endowment Foundation—a body funded by the Government to provide us with such research—is that more research is needed into the best strategies to improve outcomes for pupils with EAL.
What assessment have the Government made of the disparities in EAL pupil achievement, and what are they doing to help such at-risk children? What are the Government doing to address the facts that EAL pupils entering school in years 5 and 6 do not achieve as well as EAL pupils entering school in years 3 and 4, and that children entering school from abroad during a key stage are, on average, 12 months behind their non-EAL peers? What are the Government doing to encourage and support better research into these issues, which affect more than 1 million children? Will the Government consider more generally the impact of bilingual education? The hon. Member for Glasgow North West mentioned the experience from across the United Kingdom. There is obviously experience in Scotland and Wales, and there are the beginnings of such education in Northern Ireland, too. Given the Minister’s support for free schools and so on, is he still rigidly opposed to bilingualism in schools? That has been the Government’s position until now, but I understand that that opposition may be decreasing, provided that it is one of their favoured free schools advocating bilingual education. What is the Government’s current position on bilingual education, and has it changed?
I am grateful for that guidance, Mr Hollobone. It is a pleasure to serve again under you, although even your powerful chairmanship was unable to stop a disembodied voice from engaging in our debate; I will be interested to see how Hansard reports an unelected person taking part. I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Peterborough (Mr Jackson) on securing this important debate and on his excellent speech. As always, he campaigns effectively and argues coherently and persuasively for the interests of his constituency and constituents.
The Government are committed to social justice, as my hon. Friend, who supports and campaigns for it himself, acknowledges. That means that we want all pupils to achieve their full potential, including those with English as an additional language. However, I understand the challenges faced by local authorities such as Peterborough in delivering that objective.
The definition of English as an additional language is broad. It reflects pupils’ exposure to a language other than English at home, but it gives no indication of their proficiency in English. Some may use English as their everyday language and be fluent in it, while others may be new to Britain and speak very little English. The percentage of pupils in England recorded as having English as an additional language more than doubled between 1997 and 2013, from 7.6% to 16.2%, with enormous variation across the country. In the south-west, only 6% of pupils have EAL, compared with 56% in inner London.
There is also a great deal of variation between individual schools. At more than half of schools, fewer than 5% of pupils have EAL, but 8% of schools have a majority of such pupils. The evidence shows, as other hon. Members have said, that although pupils with EAL face disadvantages early in their school careers, they are not at a significant long-term disadvantage on average. Again, however, attainment levels vary. As the hon. Member for Glasgow North West (Carol Monaghan) pointed out, swift on the heels of her excellent maiden speech last night, learning two or three languages aids educational attainment—not just in languages, but in other subjects too. We must ensure that we support all children to achieve their full potential and overcome barriers to success, whatever those barriers are. We must also recognise that some communities with high numbers of pupils with EAL face particular challenges. I welcome my hon. Friend’s focus on the issue.
At the beginning of schooling, the average performance of pupils who speak English as a second language is significantly lower than the average for all pupils, but it significantly improves by the end of key stage 4. The latest data show that about 67% of EAL pupils achieved five or more good GCSE grades A* to C, compared with about 66% of all pupils. There are examples of local authorities with very high proportions of EAL pupils that perform well against national averages for attainment. In Newham, for example, where 76% of pupils at KS2 have EAL, 83% of pupils achieved the expected levels in reading, writing and maths at that stage. That exceeds the national average of 79% for all KS2 pupils. In fact, in 2013-14, of the 18 local authorities where more than half of pupils at key stage 2 had EAL, all but two had attainment levels above the national average for all pupils.
I remember visiting Fulbridge academy in 2011; I have remembered it ever since. I was struck by the fact that it was the first school that I had visited that year where all the primary school pupils whom I tested on their multiplication tables knew them. The rate has increased steadily over the years since then, but I was struck by that particular primary school visit, and I am grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Peterborough for taking me there.
Unfortunately, EAL pupils do not perform that well across the whole country. Although 79% of EAL pupils in Westminster achieve five or more good GCSE grades A* to C, only 50% of EAL pupils in Bradford achieve the same. The disparity in the quality of education available to pupils in different parts of the country has driven us to reform the school system. We have taken steps to ensure that every child, regardless of their particular needs or background, has a greater opportunity of attaining well at school than before 2010. There are now more than 1 million more pupils in good or outstanding schools. We have intervened in more than 1,000 weak and failing schools and are delivering improvements in performance by matching them with academy sponsors. Those academies have transformed the life chances of thousands of pupils.
King Solomon academy is one example. It is an all-through school sponsored by Ark Schools. More than half the pupils are eligible for free school meals, and 65% do not have English as a first language. In its report last year, Ofsted found the school to be outstanding, stating:
“Achievement is outstanding at all key stages. All groups of pupils, including those who have special educational needs, make excellent progress. The academy is working to provide even greater challenge to the most-able pupils.”
I will come to that in my own good time. We are unapologetic about taking Labour policy by turning underperforming schools into sponsored academies. What I cannot understand is the ambiguity of Labour’s current position on the academies programme. It has proven highly effective in raising standards, and all we hear from the Labour party is carping and criticism of the policy, which began life under Lord Adonis during the last Labour Government.
There are many maintained schools. I hesitate because 60% of secondary schools are now academies, so schools that I remember as maintained schools may well have converted. Good and outstanding schools throughout the country are rushing to convert to academy status. Many of them performed extremely well as maintained schools run by local authorities, and they are performing well now as academies.
In Scotland, we do not have academies, although some schools might have the word “academy” in their title; we have comprehensive schools and private schools. Does the Minister agree that a school’s success is not down to its name but is the result of leadership within the school and the systems put in place to ensure that staff and pupils are supported fully?
I agree that a school’s success is not to do with its name, but there is something about the freedom that academy status brings that enables innovation and professional autonomy to raise standards. Again, I cite King Solomon academy. It is run by some remarkable young people, most of whom are Teach First teachers; the headteacher, Max Haimendorf, became a head teacher in his late 20s. In that school’s first GCSE results in 2014, 93% of pupils achieved five or more good GCSEs, including in English and maths. That would be a remarkable result in any school in any location, but it is particularly so given the high levels of deprivation in the area served by the school. Furthermore, 75% of pupils at the school achieved the English baccalaureate, with high levels of achievement across the ability range.
I am. I do not think King Solomon academy would have delivered that kind of educational attainment in that part of London had there not been an academies programme. It has freedom and autonomy, and the professional approach that it takes to how it teaches its children is very different from that of any local authority school that I have visited. It would not have been able to do that if it had been run directly by the local authority in that area.
There is, of course, more to do. Although the overall quality of education in England has dramatically improved, 1.5 million pupils are still taught in schools that are less than good. The Education and Adoption Bill, which we debated last night on Second Reading, will strengthen our ability to deal with failure, and much more swiftly. Its provisions are designed to speed up the process by which the least well-performing schools are transformed in order to bring about rapid and sustained improvements, making sure every child gets the best start in life.
We have made it clear that we want to improve the literacy proficiency of all pupils; improving the teaching of reading is a key priority for the Government. Our aim is to help every child become a confident, fluent and enthusiastic reader. The latest available data show that 84% of pupils for whom English is an additional language achieved level 4 or above in reading at key stage 2 in 2014. That is just below the national average for all pupils, which is 89%. It shows that we still have further to go if we want every child to be reading well by the age of 11.
Key to our approach is the use of systematic phonics instruction; the hon. Member for Cardiff West will have expected me to use those words. The evidence shows that systematic phonics is the most effective approach to teaching early reading. The latest phonics screening check results show that across the country there is a difference of less than half a percentage point between pupils whose first language is not English and those whose first language is English. Phonics has been used to great effect in local authorities such as Newham, where, in year 1, three times as many pupils have EAL as those who do not. Some 81% of all Newham’s pupils met the expected phonics standard, well above the national average of 74%.
At secondary school, we are ensuring that all pupils study the core academic subjects of English, maths, science, history or geography, and a language: the English baccalaureate. We know already that pupils with English as an additional language are above the national average for entry and achievement in respect of the English baccalaureate. Last year, 41% of pupils with English as an additional language entered the EBacc and 26% achieved it, compared with 39% of all pupils entering it and around 24% achieving it. We want more pupils, including those for whom English is an additional language, to achieve the EBacc. Such subjects give young people a strong foundation for progress into further study and for work, and they help to keep their options open.
My hon. Friend the Member for Peterborough focused on funding. We have supported local authorities to provide additional support for EAL pupils in their local funding formulae. Local authorities can provide additional funding to pupils who speak a language other than or in addition to English, and who entered the school system in the past three years; the hon. Member for Cardiff West touched on that issue. The vast majority of local authorities include EAL as a factor in their funding formulae, and 132 local authorities allocated funding to schools teaching 450,000 pupils with English as an additional language in 2015-16. That totalled some £267 million, with schools receiving on average about £591 for each pupil who speaks English as an additional language.
We recognise that EAL pupils are more likely to be mobile and arrive in school during the academic year. Local authorities can hold money centrally to support the growth in the number of pupils below the age of 16 in schools. That growth fund allows local authorities to top up funding in-year for schools experiencing an increase in pupil numbers due to growth in the local population. Local authorities also have the power to use a mobility factor in their funding formulae. The method allows funds to be allocated to schools with a high proportion of pupils entering in-year in the previous three years. Some 66 local authorities used the factor in 2015-16, allocating a total of £24 million through it.
In Peterborough, 18% of pupils have English as an additional language. It has the 23rd largest proportion of pupils with English as an additional language among all the different authorities. The area has seen a rise of more than 5,000 such pupils in its schools from 2014-15. I note that Peterborough City Council allocated some £3.7 million for pupils with English as an additional language in 2015-16 and that it has a growth fund of about £2.25 million.
I am enormously grateful for the support that my hon. Friend the Member for Peterborough has given to this issue today. He has raised important concerns. The steps that we have taken underline our ambition to give more pupils the preparation to succeed in school, whether that is getting a place at a good university, starting an apprenticeship or finding a first job. Such steps will provide the foundations of an education system with social justice at its heart, in which every young person reaches their potential. I congratulate my hon. Friend once again for airing this important debate.
We have had a wide-ranging debate; I have been privileged to sit in on this Labour and Scottish National party seminar on structures in modern British education. Unfortunately, the subject is a bit of an obsession, particularly for the official Opposition, even though it is eloquently and charmingly articulated by the hon. Member for Cardiff West (Kevin Brennan).
The substantive point has been touched on by my hon. Friend the Minister, but I want to leave him with this thought. As I made clear in my remarks, there has been an evolution in how the pupil premium has been used to drive up attainment. Could there be a competitive system—a bidding process for LEAs that have developed bespoke solutions, such as in Peterborough, that are successful and have achieved good results under their own financial steam? They could bid for ring-fenced money, although the Minister does not like ring-fenced funding, and there could be a competitive element so that the Government rewarded best practice and tackled the long-standing endemic issues to achieve what the Minister laudably aims to do: improve social justice in educational outcomes. I leave him with those thoughts.
Finally, the Minister is welcome to come to Peterborough. I look forward to a visit from him and/or the Secretary of State some time in the next few years.
Question put and agreed to.
That this House has considered Government policy on support for pupils with English as an additional language.