Language, Education and Social Justice International Strategies for Systems Change in Multilingual Schools

About the study

The Bell Foundation, Winston Churchill Memorial Trust and The Linbury Trust have, today, published a report ‘Language, education and social justice: International strategies for systems change in multilingual schools’.  The report presents practical ideas for schools, training providers and the Government on how a more equitable, inclusive and coherent education system in England with better outcomes for multilingual learners can be achieved.

Five education systems in three countries were selected, and visited, for the study as they were all highlighted for their good practice and progressive approaches to supporting multilingual learners. The research draws on a series of semi-structured interviews with 60 professionals working across policy and practice in 24 organisations across the five jurisdictions.

Key findings

Multilingualism and language education were not described as niche concepts understood by trained specialists and academics alone, but rather as something that global citizens are participating in every day

When applied alongside a strong learning system that guides, tests and constantly refines strategy, these themes were observed to have played key roles in enabling policy-makers and practitioners to achieve change in international education systems and to improve educational outcomes for multilingual learners:


  1. Learner Voice: Through engaging with multilingual learners and their families it is possible to create education systems that are inclusive of, and owned by, the diverse, multilingual communities that they serve
  2. Collective teacher autonomy: Teacher training programmes can create a community of practitioners who value multilingualism in the classroom as a learning resource and as an asset
  3. Diverse and shared leadership: Leaders that represent the classrooms and communities they serve and that prioritise language education are needed to drive change at school and system level
  4. Asset-based approaches: Systems and programmes that build on the assets of multilingual learners can help shift schools away from a ‘monolingual mindset’
  5. Social justice and equity in education: As well as developing proficiency in multiple languages, learners need equitable access to the curriculum in English, the language of instruction