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Durham University

School of Education

Staff Profile

Publication details for Professor Feyisa Demie

Demie, F. (2018). English language proficiency and attainment of EAL (English as second language) pupils in England. Journal of Multilingual and Multicultural Development 39(7): 641-653.

Author(s) from Durham


This paper aims to examine English as an additional language (EAL) pupils’ English proficiency and its impact on attainment to improve our knowledge about EAL pupils. The sample for performance analysis consisted of 2,957 pupils who had completed Key Stage 2 (KS2) and 1,953 General Certificate of Secondary Education (GCSE). The main findings of the KS2 attainment data using the new national EAL proficiency stages in England show that no one at stage A (New to English) achieved the expected standard of achievement compared to 12% at stage B (Early Acquisition), 56% at stage C (Developing Competency), 66% at stage D (Competent), 85% at stage E (Fluent in English) and English only (71%). Similar findings also emerged from the analysis of GCSE data at the end of secondary education. Overall, the findings of the research suggest that the percentage of pupils attaining expected outcomes or above at KS2 and GCSE increased as stage of proficiency in English increased. Pupils in the early stages of English proficiency performed at low levels, while the achievement of EAL pupils who were fully fluent in English far outstripped that of pupils for whom English was their only language. The conclusion from the study is that the national EAL pupils’ English proficiency stages in England is useful as a diagnostic tool to analyse needs for future teaching focus and tracking progress. Policy and research implications are discussed in the final section.