Language of Learning

To try and understand the ‘Nappy Valley’ phenomenon, I have been looking at data on the schools in the area. One of the data fields I have, is the proportion of school pupils for whom English is not their main language.

From the census I know that 34% of residents in Tower Hamlets do not think of English as being their main language, so I was a little surprised that 77.5% of pupils in Tower Hamlets state primary schools do not speak English as their main language- this is over twice the level of the general population. In St Katharine’s and Wapping ward in 2011, 72% of the population speak English as their main language, yet in the schools (albeit a slightly wider area), only 20% of children speak English as their main language.

There are two likely effects: the first is relative fertility of different ethnic groups; the second is the demographic background of those leaving Wapping with their children.

Unfortunately the census data released so far doesn’t allow cross-tabs of ethnicity/language and age to be extracted at the moment, so I can’t confirm this, but my reading of the data makes me think that it is ‘ethnic British’ (for want of a better term) parents that are leaving the area and taking their children with them. Why it is families that speak English as their main language that are leaving, I don’t know.

What I can’t tell is whether there is a cause and effect situation- is there a vicious cycle of  parents assuming their child won’t get a good education because of perceptions of other pupils language skills and removing their child from the area?

However, the data shows a very high level of variation in whether other not English is a pupil’s main language. The dominance of English is greatest at English Martyrs and St Mary and St Michael (both Catholic schools)  and St Peters (CofE School). Whether this is because of the admission policy of these schools, or whether non-Christian parents avoid these schools isn’t obvious, but we do know these 3 schools have very little spare capacity (2% or less) and are thus very popular with parents.

Interestingly, St Paul’s, another CofE school only attracts 20% of its pupils from families where English is the main language. However, this may be because of its location, with St Peter’s attracting ‘ethnic British’ children from Wapping.

%
of pupils whose main language is not English
Bigland Green
98.0
Blue Gate Fields Infants’ School
93.9
Blue Gate Fields Junior School
98.3
Canon Barnett
93.3
English Martyrs
39.3
Harry Gosling
95.2
Hermitage
78.1
Shapla
90.6
St Mary and St Michael
40.2
St Paul’s
80.6
St Peter’s
53.0
South
of the Highway
67.1
Wapping
catchment
79.6
LBTH
Schools
77.5

Attainment in English

Interestingly, 80% or more of pupils in the local schools achieve Level 4 or higher at Key Stage 2 (KS2) in English. Interestingly, despite St Peter’s attracting a greater of proportion of children whose main language is not English, St Peter’s actually appears to under perform compared to Hermitage, Shapla and St Paul’s, it’s nearest neighbours. Blue Gate Fields, where only 2% of pupils in the junior school speak English as a main language, saw 100% of its pupils achieve level 4 or above, clearly showing language spoken at home isn’t necessarily a reflection of pupil performance.
One word of warning, these attainment levels are based on teacher self assessment, and are thus dependent on whether or not teachers assess children in the same way- I’m not familiar with how this works.

Pupil attainment at KS2 English

Level 3
Level
4
Level
5+
Bigland Green
21%
60%
19%
Blue Gate Fields
0%
42%
58%
Canon Barnett
10%
66%
24%
English Martyrs
0%
39%
61%
Harry Gosling
15%
59%
26%
Hermitage
13%
39%
48%
Shapla
9%
73%
18%
St Mary and St Michael
8%
58%
32%
St Paul’s
0%
61%
39%
St Peter’s
17%
41%
42%

Attainment in English and Maths

My data set includes the proportion of pupils achieving level 4 in both English and Maths at K2 over a number of years. What surprised me was the level of year-on-year variability, which is evident in the table below (look at Harry Gosling for example). Looking at the movement between 2009 and 2012, some schools have remained constant (Bigland Green, St Mary and St Michael, and St Peters), whilst others like Hermitage and Shapla have seen massive jumps in performance- but whether these are permanent improvements or just year-on-year movements is yet to be seen. However, 70%+ of pupils at each school managed to achieve the target level for both English and Maths. I’ll need to do some more analysis to see how this compares to the national average.

% of children achieving level 4 in
English and Maths
2009
2010
2011
2012
Bigland Green
66%
64%
78%
67%
Blue Gate Fields
92%
87%
88%
99%
Canon Barnett
78%
90%
83%
English Martyrs
93%
100%
96%
Harry Gosling
82%
63%
78%
77%
Hermitage
64%
84%
87%
Shapla
58%
77%
91%
St Mary and St Michael
84%
71%
73%
85%
St Paul’s
90%
91%
96%
St Peter’s
72%
85%
71%

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