Policy Papers

Policy papers connect research with policy through focusing on a specific piece of research and explaining its relevance for policy. The link to policy can range from pointing out conclusions and lessons for practice through to discussion of existing policies and practices and formulation of policy recommendations. In all cases the emphasis is on providing research evidence for criticising, endorsing or proposing a policy.

Multilingual education for multilingual speakers

  • Around 1,700,000 primary and secondary school pupils in England speak English as an Additional Language (EAL). As a result, bilingualism and multilingualism is of central concern for local and national government.
  • A number of recent studies show that EAL pupils perform academically less well than their monolingual peers at all key stages. In addition, levels of fluency in English can predict achievement in English, Maths and Science.
  • These studies show that fluency in English is necessary for academic achievement but may also lead to the incorrect conclusion that bilingualism is an impediment to academic achievement.
  • These studies do not take into account the huge diversity among EAL students, specifically the huge variation in their levels of fluency and literacy in their home language. Research shows that literacy in the home language (biliteracy) and bilingual education more generally enhances literacy in the additional language as well as cognitive abilities, therefore, supporting rather than impeding fluency in English and academic achievement.
  • Current policy guidelines around multilingualism are supportive of oral skills in home languages, but assessment of literacy (reading and writing) skills is exclusively in English. The absence of promotion of literacy skills in the home language can lead to decline of the home language, depriving EAL pupils from the cognitive advantages of bilingualism, and the specific academic benefits of biliteracy.
  • The benefits of bilingual education and biliteracy need to be promoted in current government guidelines and specific initiatives are needed, e.g. support of community schools for teaching literacy, promotion of qualifications in community languages (e.g. GCSEs) to motivate young people to develop literacy skills in their community languages.
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