Report examines how international education systems make their schools more inclusive for multilingual learners

This report presents practical ideas for schools, training providers and the Government, based on studying and visiting international contexts, on how to design a more equitable, inclusive and coherent education system in England with better outcomes for multilingual learners

The report ‘Language, education and social justice: International strategies for systems change in multilingual schools’¹ presents practical ideas for schools, training providers and the Government, based on studying and visiting international contexts, on how to design a more equitable, inclusive and coherent education system in England with better outcomes for multilingual learners.  This is particularly important because:

  • There are currently over 1.5mn learners using English as an Additional Language (EAL) in England, speaking over 300 languages
  • 41% of teachers now work in multilingual schools²

This report identifies a number of challenges to delivering an equitable education system for multilingual learners due to a number of policy and funding changes in recent years which have resulted in England’s system for supporting EAL pupils being insufficient.  Regions within other English-speaking countries, such as America, Australia, Canada and New Zealand have far more extensive EAL policies³.  By contrast, in England, there is/are no:

  • Official policy or statutory guidance on supporting learners with English as an Additional Language or on multilingualism
  • National oversight or provision for professional qualifications
  • Requirement for schools in England to report on the Proficiency in English in the School Census
  • Training programmes or guidance on assessment

The study, carried out by Emma Cleave whilst at The Bell Foundation, set out to examine international approaches in Australia, the USA and Canada, as they can provide models that can be learnt from. The report focuses on what unites the provision in these different countries; a drive towards education systems in which diverse, multicultural and multilingual schools are considered ’the norm’.

The report provides case studies which demonstrate successful strategies in real life contexts and provide recommendations for schools and policy-makers on how to apply these in English schools.

Tim Boals, Executive Director, the WIDA Consortium, USA summarises the issue “Multilingual learners are not inherently disadvantaged, by language or otherwise: it is the system that lets them down. Rather than asking ‘Are the kids ready?’ We should be asking ‘Are the institutions ready?’ This is not about the achievement gap; it’s about the opportunity gap. Are kids getting what they need? Are they getting access to rigorous classes, to the support they need to make sure that access is appropriate? Are they able to develop their English language skills and their academic skills?”

The report demonstrates that by shifting the way we talk about multilingualism from a deficit to an asset-based approach it is possible to change attitudes, so that teachers do not see a newly arrived refugee with little or no English language proficiency as a learner that may take their time away from the rest of the class, but see them as a capable learner with a wealth of skills and assets to build on, that will benefit their peers.

Diana Sutton, Director, The Bell Foundation “The UK has much to learn from international practice and others’ strategies to improve educational outcomes for multilingual learners.  What struck me most on reading the findings was the asset-based approach which the countries visited use to embrace the skills that multilingual learners bring. England has much to learn from these approaches.”

Emma Cleave, report author “Through visiting and speaking with progressive and inclusive schools, education departments and academics across three countries I have discovered that by changing the perspective on, and provision for, multilingual, multicultural classrooms, schools are able to create more equitable and improved outcomes for their EAL learners. This is why the report concludes with recommendations for policy-makers, school leaders, teachers, parents and learners on how change could be brought about in order to ensure that everyone works towards a society in which multicultural, multilingual schools are considered ‘the norm’, and in which all languages, and those who speak them, are valued.”

Notes to Editor
¹ Emma Cleave (2020), ‘Language, education and social justice: International strategies for systems change in multilingual schools’, The Bell Foundation, Winston Churchill Memorial Trust and The Linbury Trust
² OECD Teaching and Learning International Survey, 2018
³ Jo Hutchinson (2018), ‘Educational Outcomes of Children with English as an Additional Language‘. Education Policy Institute, The Bell Foundation and Unbound Philanthropy

About The Bell Foundation
The Bell Foundation is a charity which aims to overcome exclusion through language education by working with partners on innovation, research, training and practical interventions. Through generating and applying evidence, we aim to change practice, policy and systems for children, adults and communities with English as an Additional Language in the UK.

The EAL Programme aims to improve the educational outcomes of children with English as an Additional Language in the UK to benefit the individual child and society as a whole. The Foundation works in partnership with a range of organisations across the education system, to provide training and resources in order to build capacity, develop and evaluate models of good practice, and provide thought leadership.

Media enquiries regarding this announcement should be directed to Julia Shervington, Communications Manager,  or 01223 275501.

About the Winston Churchill Memorial Trust

The Winston Churchill Memorial Trust (WCMT) runs the Churchill Fellowships, a unique programme of overseas research grants. These support UK citizens from all parts of society in travelling the world in search of innovative solutions for today’s most pressing problems.

Every year the Trust awards 150 Fellowships. These fund outstanding individuals to travel for 4–8 weeks, anywhere in the world, researching a topic of their choice among global leaders in their field. On their return, WCMT helps them to share their global learning with professions and communities across the UK.

These are not academic research grants. They support practical inquiries into real-world issues that the Fellows have encountered in their daily lives. They cover eight universal themes in society: arts and culture, community and citizenship, economy and enterprise, education and skills, environment and resources, health and wellbeing, governance and public provision, and science and technology.

Any UK adult citizen can apply, regardless of qualifications, age or background. Fellows are chosen not for their past achievements, but for the power of their ideas and their potential to be changemakers.

The Fellowship was created by public subscription in 1965 as the living legacy of Sir Winston Churchill. Since then WCMT has made over 5,500 grants to inspiring individuals who possess the passion and commitment to make a real difference. For many, it has been a life-changing opportunity.

At the heart of all this is a simple but enduring concept. WCMT is empowering individuals to learn from the world, for the benefit of the UK. Today this idea is more valuable than ever.

About The Linbury Trust
The Linbury Trust is a UK-based grant-making foundation; part of the wider Sainsbury Family Trust network. You can read more about the Sainsbury Family Trusts here: The Linbury Trust was established by Lord Sainsbury of Preston Candover KG, and his wife Anya, Lady Sainsbury CBE, the former ballerina, Anya Linden.  The Linbury Trust made its first grant award in 1973 and since then has awarded grants of almost £200million.