London children whose first language isn’t English are doing better at school than native speakers

More are getting five good GCSEs including English and Maths

Jon Stone
Friday 22 January 2016 15:11 GMT
Proficiency in languages is a particular driver of more children meeting the benchmark
Proficiency in languages is a particular driver of more children meeting the benchmark

London children whose first language is not English are getting slightly better overall grades at school than pupils who were brought up speaking it, newly-released official figures show.

The statistics, complied by the Department for Education, come the same day as the Government released details of a crackdown on immigrant mothers with weak English skills.

David Cameron said in an interview earlier this week that a lack of English being spoken in immigrant communities was hampering integration and life-chances, particularly of women.

He announced that spouses who came to the UK on a visa to live with their partner would have their English tested after living in the UK for several years. If they failed the test there was “no guarantee” they would not be deported, he said.

Mr Cameron also confirmed that such mothers with British citizen children could lose the right to live in the country their children were citizens of – potentially splitting up families.

The capital's GCSE figures however suggest that being brought up with another language is not necessarily a major disadvantage to academic success – and could be an advantage in some areas.

The Government’s key measure of pupil achievement is how many attain five good GCSEs including English and Maths.

The 2014-15 figures show that 61.3 per cent of pupils whose first language is not English meet the benchmark – compared to just 60.7 who were raised speaking the language.

The difference is even more pronounced in some communities with high proportions of ethnic minority pupils.

In Tower Hamlets, where over two-thirds of the population belong to ethnic minority groups, 67.1 per cent of pupils whose first language is not English reach the benchmark.

This is compared to just 57.8 per cent who were raised speaking English.

Part of the difference is down to improved attainment in foreign languages, but science and maths were also areas of particular success for pupils whose first language was not English.

The Government defines someone’s first language as “the language to which a child was initially exposed during early development and continues to be exposed to in the home or in the community.

“It does not mean that pupils are necessarily fluent in a language other than English or cannot speak English,” officials say.

The equivalent stats release for the previous year did not include data on people with additional languages.

Mr Cameron admitted on Monday that his government had actually previously cut funding for English-language tuition for immigrants who come to the UK. He blamed the deficit for the policy.

“Yes, budgets did come down in the past because all budgets were under pressure because of the enormous deficit and the need to pay that down,” he told the same programme.

“I think we had to make difficult decisions. Now what we’re doing is targeting the language money – it is for those who are in the greatest level of isolation.”

The figures could be related to improved educational attainment in London, where schools have performed increasingly well and a higher proportion of people have English as a second langauge compared to elsewhere in the country.

This article was updated to make it clear the figures in question relate to London

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