In 2016, Department of Education published Key Statistics for newcomer pupils in Northern Ireland.
All parent of children learning English as an Additional Language (EALs) should see it.
The term ‘newcomer’ refers to a pupil who does not have satisfactory language skills to participate fully in the school curriculum and does not have a language in common with the teacher (Source). In other words, newcomers are children who don’t have English as their first language.
The statistics revealed that children learning English as an Additional Language are four times less likely to get to university than their native peers.
In 2015 newcomers constituted 3.5% of the total enrollment to schools in Northern Ireland.
We are talking about 11.900 children. Most of the children were Polish (4.175) Lithuanian (1.814), Portuguese (848) and Chinese (581).
There seems to have been little difference in school meal entitlement between families of native children and newcomer children. Since meal entitlement is a proxy for socioeconomic status, it might be interpreted as a minimal difference in income or education between families of native and newcomer children.
There was no dramatic difference in attendance levels between newcomer pupils and non-newcomer pupils (native children).
Now the explosive part of the report:
Polish, Lithuanian, Portuguese, Chinese and other newcomers children’s did far worse on A Levels and GCSESs
than native children. Only 7.6% of newcomer pupils achieved 3+A Levels in comparison to 37.3% of native children.
Only 14.8% of newcomer children achieved 5+ GCSEs in comparison to 64.1 % of native children.
It should not surprise now that the discrepancy affected the destination of newcomer children. Children learning English as an Additional Language were four times less likely to progress to higher education (university) and more likely to enter further education (not taken as part of an undergraduate or graduate degree).
My take on it:
It is the truly shocking report. It is evident that schools in the NI struggle with providing equitable education to children from migrant backgrounds. Despite the clear need for extra effort to help children learning English develop their English proficiency and frequent declarations in policy documents supporting ‘fair’ education, bilingual children are left behind.