Social Work and Social Policy: Enhancing integration for pupils with English as an additional language

Dr Claudia Schneider

Research co-led by ARU and Cambridge University, looking into the social, linguistic and academic integration of pupils with English as an additional language (EAL) has led to improved educational strategies and outcomes.

The main beneficiaries of this research have been EAL pupils and their parents, teachers, five local authorities in England, the Welsh Government, the Bell Foundation and another 26 national and international organisations working in the educational field.

Claudia Schneider

Dr Claudia Schneider

Claudia is Reader in Migration Studies at ARU. Her main area of teaching and research concerns migration studies, social theory and research methods (quantitative, qualitative and mixed methods).

Find out more about Dr Claudia Schneider Explore ARU researchers' original work via our open access repository, ARRO

Research summary

This case study builds on Dr Schneider’s research on the integration of migrant communities since 2004. The case study comprises two linked projects on the social, linguistic and academic integration of EAL pupils which she co-led in collaboration with Cambridge University.

There are more than 1.5 million pupils in UK schools who speak English as an additional language (EAL), meaning that they have grown up speaking another language at home.

EAL pupils follow the national curriculum but whose who are not proficient in English must develop their English skills at the same time, which puts them at an educational disadvantage.

Support strategies for such pupils and their parents are therefore vital to avoid an attainment gap between EAL and non-EAL pupils. ARU research has aimed to develop such strategies through an interdisciplinary mixed-methods and multi-site research design.

The two EAL projects were innovative in that they adopted an interdisciplinary and holistic approach to researching the social, language and academic integration of EAL pupils and their parents.

The projects were funded by the Bell Foundation, which aims to improve practice and policy for disadvantaged communities.

The research found major obstacles to the social, language and academic integration of EAL pupils:

  • a lack of a holistic and co-ordinated approach to EAL in schools
  • limited social integration of pupils (e.g. low levels of friendship groups between EAL and non-EAL pupils)
  • teachers lacking information about migratory experiences and countries of origin
  • ineffective communication about EAL among teachers and with EAL pupils and their parents, leading to low levels of understanding and empathy about EAL on the part of teachers
  • deficiencies in school–home communication, for example, one-way communication, leading to EAL parents being left with a limited knowledge of the English school system and their children’s learning
  • and discrepancies between parents’ and teachers’ views of parental knowledge regarding their children’s schooling, engagement and barriers to engagement.

The findings also identified limited use of effective EAL teaching practices, a focus on basic English for everyday communication rather than enhanced English for analysis in English language teaching, and ineffective initial EAL assessment practices.

On the basis of these findings, the researchers developed EAL strategies for pupils and families with diverse migration backgrounds.

A group of students sitting and listening to a teacher

Summary of the impact

  • Informed training programmes, integration projects, reports, and campaigns in the UK and internationally
  • Influenced EAL practice among teachers
  • Increased the social integration, language development and achievement of more than 10,000 EAL pupils
  • Benefitted parents of EAL pupils

Impact

Impact on education through the Bell Foundation

This research had direct impact on the educational activities of its main funder, the Bell Foundation (BF), who incorporated our findings on EAL pupils’ social integration, EAL communication within the school, school–home communication with parents of EAL pupils, parental engagement, and EAL language development and assessment into their Language for Results Programme (LRP).

The Bell Foundation rolled out LRP in 36 national training sessions across the UK and 12 British Council seminars in the UK for 481 British school teachers across primary and secondary. Both schemes had significant impact by increasing teachers’ understanding of EAL and their application of EAL strategies in the classroom and wider school context.

Further new assessment strategies on the basis of our research were incorporated by BF, resulting in an EAL Assessment Framework which changed schools’ EAL assessment strategies, this went on to win the British Council’s ELTons Award for Local Innovation in 2018.

Dr Schneider’s research findings have also helped The Bell Foundation with lobbying the UK government to introduce an EAL postgraduate degree and quoted the research in materials prepared for the Department for Education’s Early Career Framework.

About read more about impact on education through the bell foundation.

Impact on schools and teachers

The projects had direct impact on EAL practice at 68 schools and on 560 teachers who participated in Dr Schneider's two research projects or the Bell Foundation training programmes described, plus 150 teachers and trainees who have attended EAL training each year since 2017 in one of the case study schools.

Impact also related to initial teacher training (ITT), the project had a “downstream” impact on 20,000 teachers via the EAL research projects, workshops organised by ARU, CU and schools, the British Council seminars and the Bell Foundation’s training programmes, and via EAL staff who had participated in the above events, cascading their knowledge to fellow teachers.

EAL pupils

Dr Schneider’s research projects impacted directly on the social integration, language development and achievement of 1,250 EAL pupils who attended the case study schools and 10,230 EAL pupils via the BF’s EAL programme.

Pupils gained higher levels of confidence, a sense of being part of the class and school community, improvement of academic English, uptake of GCSE subjects such as English, and higher GCSE grades. Downstream impact extended to 96,000 EAL pupils via the teachers who attended the Bell Foundation training programmes.

Parents of EAL pupils

In the East of England, 165 parents participated in research projects and English classes at one of the case study schools. There was a parental impact, reflected in increased parental knowledge about their children’s learning as well as parents’ English language development, confidence, engagement and employment.

In total, 144,000 parents benefited from The British Council and Bell Foundation training programmes and research projects.

NGOs

The findings impacted on 22 national and 2 international NGOs including bilingual advice services, community minority group services, and political think tanks.

Several NGOs used the ARU research in their own reports on aspects of EAL, including the National Association for Language Development in the Curriculum (Naldic, the UK’s National subject association for EAL), the National Literacy Trust and Renaisi, a social enterprise that helps disadvantaged people and places thrive.

The recommendations based on Dr Schneider's research enhanced these NGOs’ training programmes for teachers and/or parents and enabled the implementation of new EAL teaching practices, parent engagement strategies and school–home communication.

Local integration projects

In Cambridge, Dr Schneider's "Arriving at a new place" project increased understanding between residents with diverse backgrounds (including EAL and non-EAL students of a secondary school). It was also presented to 800 visitors at the Being Human Festival in 2019.

In 2020, the findings from the EAL projects relating to integration and communication impacted on an integration project in Harlow (commissioned by Harlow Local Council via Rainbow Services) and two integration workshops for 11 local governmental and non-governmental organisations.

Harlow Council’s social integration strategy has changed significantly in line with the project’s recommendations on reciprocal integration strategies.

International impact

Dr Schneider’s research findings were presented at 2018’s Erasmus Plus workshop in Cambridge, shared with international representatives of six organisations working with young people with diverse backgrounds in France, Italy, Poland, Romania, Slovakia and Spain.

The findings of the EAL projects and the impact project Arriving at a New Place were also used by organisations in Germany, Norway, Romania and Slovenia. The Center for Diversity, Democracy and Integration in Education (University of Hildesheim, Germany) has incorporated the research findings and the Arriving project into their teacher network and a community integration project with “super impact organisations” in Germany.

The Norwegian University of Science and Technology has used the findings for a school integration project. The youth organisation IPTA (Projects and Ideas for Active Youth) in Romania has used the recommendations of the EAL projects and the Arriving project for a pilot curriculum for refugees living at the Emergency Transit Center in Romania (UNHCR).

The Slovenian Migration Institute (Research Centre of the Slovenian Academy of Sciences and Arts) has applied the findings and the "Arriving" project to a project on diversity teacher training.

To enhance the ongoing impact, Dr Schneider has established an international network on Social Integration, Migration and Local Communities with eight national and international partners to exchange best practice regarding integration in schools and the wider community.

About read more about international impact.

United Nations Sustainable Development Goals

We have mapped our REF 2021 impact case studies against the United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The 17 SDGs, adopted by all UN Member States in 2015, are an urgent call for action. They recognise that ending poverty and other deprivations must go hand-in-hand with strategies that improve health and education, reduce inequality, and spur economic growth – all while tackling climate change and working to preserve our oceans and forests.

This case study is mapped to SDG 4: Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all, target 4.1.

Read the full REF 2021 impact case study for UoA 20: Enhancing Integration for Pupils with English as an Additional Language

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