London Metropolitan University Research Institutes

Language Diversity and Attainment in English Secondary Schools

Funded by

The Arvon Foundation


January- May 2012 


The Institute for Policy Studies in Education (IPSE) was  commissioned by Arvon’s (M)other Tongues programme to identify which linguistic minorities are at a ‘disadvantage’ in education in England and to identify where they are located – paying particular attention to areas outside of London. Hence, this report identifies and maps linguistic minority attainment in the secondary school population in England in 2011.

This report highlights, that, given the growing “super-diversity” of England and the rest of the UK, crude ethnic categories (of Black, White, Asian) in published DfE data mask a great deal of ethnic, national, linguistic, religious and social diversity which may be getting in the way of how we ‘make sense’ of minority communities’ relative achievement, and how we understand who is at a disadvantage. If we are to get any closer to understanding the role of language / bilingualism and multilingualism in children’s relative attainment we need better data and more fine grained analysis.

The report has the following key findings:

  • While other first language speakers, and minority ethnic pupils in general, attain better results in London, there are still persistent gaps in attainment between English first language, and other first language speakers, nationally.
  • There are large attainment gaps in the Yorkshire and the Humber and the North West regions, which need further exploration.
  • Overall, many of the widest attainment gaps are present in local authorities with substantial Pakistani ethnic minority groups – for example, Peterborough, Oldham, Bedford, Bury, Derby, Sheffield, and Calderdale – who tend to speak Urdu, Punjabi or Mirpuri and experience economic disadvantage. This association clearly needs further examination.
  • There is clearly a need for further research into new ethnic communities from Eastern Europe, whose educational and language profile, and needs, tends to be obscured in the White, or White Other ethnic category.
  • Similarly, Black African ethnic groups need to be specified in relation to language to gain a fuller picture of their educational achievements. In particular, more recent migratory flows from Central and East Africa (e.g. Congo, Angola, and Zimbabwe).


  • Hollingworth, S. & Mansaray, A. (2012) Language Diversity and Attainment in English Secondary Schools [Report commissioned by Arvon’s (M)other Tongues programme] , IPSE: London. 
    The report can be downloaded here: Language Diversity & Attainment Report 2012.pdf

  • Language capital : mapping the languages of London's schoolchildren, John Eversley, Dina Mehmedbogovic, Antony Sanderson, Teresa Tinsley, Michelle von Ahn and Richard D Wiggins London : Cilt, the National Centre for Languages, 2010.

  • All Publications related to this project

Project team

Sumi Hollingworth
Ayo Mansaray 


Sumi Hollingworth

Tel: 0207 133 4170


   Company Information    Page last updated 28 March 2012     Contact Page Owner (Angela Kamara)