Pupils who begin school in Reception with a first language other than English do better by the end of primary school than native English speakers, official research reveals.
But those English-as-an-additional-language pupils who arrive later than Reception do worse on average in the Year 6 Sats.
The statistics, published by the Department for Education today, also show that at GCSE, EAL students who started school in England during Reception, Year 1 or Year 2, have higher attainment 8 scores on average than pupils whose first language is English.
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The statistics show that 126,100 pupils at the end of primary are EAL speakers – about 17 per cent of all pupils.
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But 79 per cent of these pupils started school in Reception and some of these pupils will have lived in England all their life and are likely to have been fluent in English from a very young age.
In 2018, 68 per cent of EAL pupils who began school in England in Reception reached the expected standard in reading, writing and maths at the end of key stage 2, compared with 65 per cent of all pupils with English as their first language.
But the pass rate for EAL pupils who began school in Year 1 was just 56 per cent, and this proportion fell to 18 per cent for those beginning at a state-funded school in Year 6.
At secondary school, there is a similar pattern, with EAL pupils who joined an English school in Reception getting an Attainment 8 score of 49.8 at the end of key stage 4, compared with 46.5 for those who have English as their first language.
EAL pupils who joined in Year 1 and Year 2 also had higher Attainment 8 scores,than native English speakers, but for those who joined in Year 11, the average Attainment 8 score was 23.7.
Today's report states that while attainment of EAL pupils is similar to that for pupils with English as their first language, the English language skills of this group will vary considerably with some pupils fluent in English from a very young age and other who have arrived in England very recently with very little understanding of English.
"We do not collect data on a pupil’s arrival date in an English-speaking country," the report states. "However, we have used the school census to identify the academic year that each pupil first appeared in a state-funded school in England."
It says that the year that a pupil starts school acts as a good proxy for the pupil's arrival date in England, although some may have attended an independent school beforehand.