A student from Hungary who arrived in the country just two years ago with barely a word of English has passed his GCSEs, including three A*s.
Kristof Kokosi attends the Ark Elvin Academy in Wembley and learned English in just two years before going on to secure A*s in English literature, maths and geography as well as three more As, a B and two Cs.
Kristof's grades are part of a wider trend among students with English as an additional language (EAL), who have started to outscore their native-speaking peers when it comes to the proportion gaining five A*s to C grades.
Since 2012, the number of EAL students achieving five good GCSEs has been greater than their native English-speaking counterparts, although there still remained a gap when English and maths was included. Experts attribute their success to the drive and aspiration often shown by immigrant families, as well as the educational benefits that come with speaking multiple languages fluently.
Such is the interest in the performance of EAL students that it has been the focus of a research project by the Education Endowment Foundation (EEF), which showed that the academic achievement of native English speakers did not suffer if they attended a school with a high proportion of EAL pupils.
Remarking on the success of EAL students in 2012, Sir Kevan Collins, now chief executive of the EEF, said: “In new populations, there is often a drive, a desire in education that seems to push their children in a different way.”
At Elvin Academy, Kristof was given extra support from teachers who stayed late after school to provide additional lessons to help him improve his English and to succeed in his chosen subjects.
“I started GCSEs without actually having much English knowledge, and during those years I’ve been working extra hard,” Kristof said. “I started by memorising 30 to 40 words each day and practised speaking, writing, because it wasn’t easy. In the second year I stayed at school until seven o'clock sometimes.”
The dedication shown by Kristof’s teachers has inspired the 16-year-old to pursue a career in teaching. “I would like to become maybe a maths teacher. I like to help other people, and I think the greatest asset you can give to a person is knowledge,” he added.
Moving to England and studying at the school has, he said, given him “a completely different perspective to the world”.
“I can see the world in another language, basically.”