University of Oxford

English as an Additional Language (EAL), Proficiency in English (PIE) and Educational Achievement

Project Aim

This project explores the relationship between English as an Additional Language (EAL), Proficiency in English (PIE) and educational achievement. It builds on research published by The Bell Foundation, Education Endowment Foundation, University of Oxford and Unbound Philanthropy in 2015 analysing the evidence from national data in England on the achievement of students with English as an Additional Language.

Project Partners

This project is co-funded by Unbound Philanthropy and The Bell Foundation. The research is led by the University of Oxford.

The Department of Education, University of Oxford started out as a department for training teachers, and is now also renowned for its research excellence. It was ranked first in the UK in the most recent Research Excellence Framework (REF) and is the highest ranked education faculty in Europe by the 2020 Times Higher Education’s World University Rankings subject league. The department has many research collaborations within the social sciences division and of course the University more widely. Our research is outward-facing, with projects that are transformative not just for the research field, but for governments, charities, industry and all levels of the educational sector. The department also stays true to its origins and provides excellence in teacher education, having achieved the highest possible grades by the Office for Standards in Education (OFSTED) for six consecutive inspections and is recognised as an ‘outstanding’ provider.

Unbound Philanthropy is an independent private grant-making foundation that works to ensure that migrants and refugees are treated with respect and engage with their new communities. We support pragmatic, innovative, and responsive approaches to immigration and immigrant integration in the United States and United Kingdom.

About the Project

The project consists of three research reports.

The first report, published in 2018, found that it is Proficiency in English that is central to understanding achievement and levels of need among pupils with English as an Additional Language (EAL). The research demonstrates that Proficiency in English can explain 22% of the variation in EAL pupils’ achievement compared to the typical 3-4% that can be statistically explained using gender, free school meal status and ethnicity.

The report, written by Professor Steve Strand and Dr Annina Hessel, analysed data from six Local Authorities on the Proficiency in English (PIE) of pupils with English as an Additional Language as recorded in the January 2017 School Census. It answered three questions:

  1. What factors are associated with the Proficiency in English of EAL pupils?
  2. Is Proficiency in English linked to educational attainment at age 5, 7, 11 and 16?
  3. How much of the variation between EAL pupils’ attainment can be explained by their Proficiency in English?

The second report, published in 2020, investigated the length of time it takes for pupils who are New to English when they arrive in Reception to achieve academic Proficiency in English (PIE). The research demonstrated that the current three-year allocation for supporting learners using EAL within the National Funding Formula (NFF) is insufficient for pupils who are New to English when they start school.

This report, written by Professor Steve Strand and Dr Ariel Lindorff, analysed Proficiency in English data from the Welsh Pupil Level Annual School Census (PLASC). The Welsh Government has been recording the Proficiency in English of pupils annually since 2009, which provided data for this cross-sectional and longitudinal study. In total 3,528,064 anonymised pupil records across a nine-year period (from Reception to Year 11) were analysed. As the data is recorded using the same five-point Proficiency in English scale as the one used in England in 2017-2018 the research team found that the group was comparable to that in the English National Pupil Database and therefore the findings are as relevant in England as they are in Wales.

This study set out to answer two questions which are of central importance for teachers, curriculum developers and policy-makers:

  1. How long does it take for pupils who are New to English to acquire Proficiency in English?
  2. How long do pupils need special language support?

The third and final report is pending publication.