My daughter’s primary school had its Ofsted inspection last month. With 87% EAL children – and the majority of these of Pakistani heritage – the ghost of the Trojan Horse had arrived, and the school management had done their homework on British values. I was one of four governors taking part in a group interview, incidentally illustrating the ethnic diversity of the school: One White British governor, one South Asian-Pakistani, one South Asian-Indian, one White Other. As it happened, all went well, the feared Ofsted inspectors proved entirely agreeable, and we are still ‘Good’.
Looking through the report, I noted the emphasis on data relating to the category of pupils on Free School Meals (FSM), as an indicator of disadvantage, and the work the school did to close the ‘attainment gap’. Despite the high number of EAL children in the school, no specific reference was made to the nature and quality of EAL provision. Whereas the FSM category serves analytical purposes, EAL would appear a purely descriptive one. Not entirely unreasonable perhaps, as the EAL category includes children born and bred in the UK as well as very recent arrivals with very little or no English.
Altogether, this resonates with findings from Upstream, a research project on mainstreaming of integration policies, which we have carried out with partners in France, Netherlands, Poland, Spain and the UK, focusing on two policy areas – education and social cohesion – at national, local and neighbourhood levels. The research questions relating to the education policy area addressed the way in which mainstream mechanisms meet the needs of immigrant children, and how policies were developed at national, local authority and school levels.