Bilingual pupils do better in exams, report finds

Bilingual children are far more likely to get top-grade passes in exams in all subjects, a report has found.

A study of Portuguese children at secondary schools in London showed that those who were encouraged to continue studying their native language were five times as likely to achieve five top grade A* to C grade passes at GCSE.

The study also found that 11-year-olds in Hackney who speak more than one language at home were outperforming pupils who only speak English, even in reading, in their national curriculum tests.

The report, Positively Plurilingual, is published today by Cilt, the national centre for languages, to coincide with a drive to encourage the take-up of community languages.

In an introduction to the report, Sir Trevor McDonald - who led a major inquiry into the teaching of languages in schools and is now Cilt's patron - says too many schools miss out on the opportunity to ensure bilingual pupils develop their skills in languages other than English. "Rather than thinking in terms of an 'English-only' culture, we should be promoting 'English-plus'," he says. "We know that children are capable of acquiring more than one language and that doing so brings a range of educational benefits, including cognitive advantages, enhanced communication skills and an openness to different cultural perspectives."

The report also cites research by Ellen Bailystock of York University in Canada, which showed that bilingual people were better at multi-tasking than those who only speak one language. This is because they regularly exercise the part of the brain known as the pre-frontal cortex which reinforces attention span.

The report says that more than one in eight primary school pupils in the UK - about 850,000 children - speak a language other than English at home.

"People who already speak more than one language find it easier to learn new languages than monolinguals," it adds.

It gives several examples of schools that take advantage of the ethnic diversity of their children - including Newbury Park primary school in Redbridge, east London, which adopts a different "language of the month" so its pupils get a grounding in all of the 44 languages spoken at the school.

Peterborough now offers classes in Italian, Urdu and Punjabi in its primary schools. "The linguistic map of the UK is changing," concludes the report. "The number of languages in use is growing and diversity is spreading to parts of the country where previously few languages other than English were spoken."

Dorset County Council, for instance, has teamed up with Tower Hamlets in east London - where 60 per cent of pupils are of Bangladeshi origin - to provide distance learning for Bengali speakers. Cumbria offers Saturday classes in Chinese and Bengali.

More than 200 representatives of schools and local education authorities will gather at the Polish embassy this morning to promote the teaching of Polish, in a meeting timed to coincide with the launch of the report. Children of Polish origin are one of the fastest growing ethnic minority groups in UK state schools.

Today's drive comes in the wake of the decision by Alan Johnson, the Education Secretary, to set up an inquiry into the teaching of languages in schools - following the disastrous slump in take-up of the subject at GCSE and A-level when compulsory language lessons after the age of 14 were scrapped. It is to be headed by Lord Dearing, the former chairman of the Post Office, and is expected to make its interim report in December.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Education

Tradewind Recruitment: Science Teacher

£90 - £140 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: I am currently working in partnersh...

Tradewind Recruitment: Humanities Teacher

£130 - £150 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: Humanities Teacher Jan 2015 - July...

Tradewind Recruitment: Maths Teacher

Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: Our exclusive client in St Albans Hertfords...

Tradewind Recruitment: KS2 Primary Teachers

Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: Key Stage 2 Teachers needed in Hertfordshir...

Day In a Page

Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

Isis hostage crisis

The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
11 best winter skin treats

Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee
World War Z author Max Brooks honours WW1's Harlem Hellfighters in new graphic novel

Max Brooks honours Harlem Hellfighters

The author talks about race, legacy and his Will Smith film option to Tim Walker
Why the league system no longer measures up

League system no longer measures up

Jon Coles, former head of standards at the Department of Education, used to be in charge of school performance rankings. He explains how he would reform the system
Valentine's Day cards: 5 best online card shops

Don't leave it to the petrol station: The best online card shops for Valentine's Day

Can't find a card you like on the high street? Try one of these sites for individual, personalised options, whatever your taste