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Exploring the effect of non-native speakers in UK classrooms

In recent years, an increase of immigration to the UK has led to a rise in the number of children who are non-native speakers of English. Could this have an impact on the performance of pupils who speak English as a first language?

Professor Sandra McNally from the School of Economics sought to identify the extent of this impact in her report, ‘Non-native speakers of English in the classroom: what are the effects on pupil performance?’. Her findings have been widely reported in the media, from the Today programme on Radio 4 to The Telegraph and The Daily Mail.

Professor McNally, who looked at data from the English schools census for the years 2005 to 2009, found that an increased presence of children who do not speak English as their first language is not detrimental to the educational attainment of native English speakers.

Although there was found to be a small negative correlation between the educational attainment of native English speakers and the proportion of non-native speakers in their year group, this simply reflects the fact that non-native English speakers typically attend schools with more disadvantaged native speakers.

Professor McNally is also Director of the Education and Skills Programme of the Centre for Economic Performance at the London School of Economics. This project was funded from a research grant from the Nuffield Foundation. Read the full report on the Nuffield Foundation website.

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