Bilingual pupils do better in exams, report finds
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Bilingual pupils do better in exams, report finds

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  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.

                                                                             News by Independent   Published: 31 October 2006
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wrestling | Elisa di Rivombrosa | LECCE | business | ministers | All headteachers will be required to promote "community cohesion" under compromise plans agreed by peers to defuse the row over faith schools. | Schools inspectors will assess schools' efforts to promote integration between communities, and ministers will have powers to intervene if schools fail to comply, under the cross-party plans. The compromise was agreed yesterday as peers debated an attempt by the former Conservative education secretary Lord Baker to ensure that all new faith schools accept at least a quarter of pupils from other religions or none. | Alan Johnson, the Secretary of State for Education, was accused of executing the "fastest U-turn in British political history" last week when he dropped the plan after agreeing a voluntary deal to set aside places for non-church pupils in faith schools. | The Education minister Lord Adonis told peers that the compromise plans would "ensure that all schools are held to account for their contribution in this important aspect" of their work. | "The best and most effective way to promote community cohesion is to lay a duty to promote community cohesion on the governing body of all schools," he said. "This will, of course, extend beyond faith schools, whether new or existing, and will embrace all schools, whatever their admissions policy, which will make it more effective, we believe." Lord Baker welcomed the move as a step in the right direction, but insisted that his attempt to establish quotas for non-faith pupils in religious schools was still needed. He told peers: "There would be no desire to stage Romeo and Juliet between a Muslim school and an Anglican school for every page of Romeo and Juliet is against the Koran. I suspect there won't be a great desire to stage a combined King Lear as filial devotion is not exactly what it ought to be. So I ask your lordships to be realistic about this." | Lord Ahmed, a Labour peer, said: "It's wrong just to target faith schools. If you go to Bradford, Leicester or Southall you will find state schools with 98 per cent or 99 per cent children from one community. Yes, community cohesion has to be taught and promoted, but in every school, and we all need to do it." | Lord Dearing, a former government education adviser, said: "I say to Lord Baker, I join with others in thanking him for promoting, nay provoking, this amendment, and I'm glad to hear support. This is the kind of thing we need faith schools and state schools to be doing." But he added: "There are Church of England schools which are predominately children from Muslim faiths and they get on and it works."
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