Catherine Brennan portrait

Written by Catherine Brennan

Catherine is the Director of Better Bilingual, a social enterprise based in Bristol, an EAL Academy Associate and active member of NALDIC.

One of the questions which often comes up during our Better Bilingual discussions with schools about developing EAL provision is funding. No surprise there…but what IS surprising is the absence of information and understanding about English as an additional language (EAL) being one of the 14 funding factors explicitly identified in England’s Schools operational guide: 2022-23 

In this blog, I aim to explain what this EAL funding is and how schools may more easily understand – and hopefully access it – for the benefit of our many multilingual pupils, in relation to the Protected Characteristic of ‘Race’.

What is this EAL funding and how can schools access it?

This education funding guidance from the Education & Skills Funding Agency identifies English as an additional language (EAL) as beingan optional factor’ for local authorities to consider when they ‘plan the local implementation of the funding system’ – i.e. when they allocate central government funding to local schools.

The guidance specifies that ‘Pupils identified in the October census with a first language other than English may attract funding for up to three years after they enter the statutory school system. Local authorities can choose to use indicators based on one, two, or three years, and there can be separate unit values for primary and secondary.’

The means that each individual EAL pupil in a primary school could attract between £500 and £750 per pupil, whilst secondary funding could be between £1,500 and £1,750 per pupil. 

This could be for 1 year or up to 3 years – all depending on how your local authority has decided to use this ‘optional factor’. So a considerable amount of money…

You can read an analysis of ‘how each local authority has allocated their dedicated schools grant (DSG) schools block funding for 2022 to 2023’ here:  Schools Block Funding Formulae 2022 to 2023 (Education & Skills Funding Agency, June 2022).

Why is the October Census so important for schools’ EAL funding?

There are two reasons for this – firstly because this EAL data is collected only once each year through the October Census and secondly because the ‘first language’ definition is often misunderstood, meaning that many EAL pupils are not recorded correctly in the October Census. This can result in schools (and therefore their EAL pupils) missing out on funding.

So what does ‘first language other than English’ mean? Is it the same as ‘EAL’?

Before I answer the first question, I’ll answer the second – yes, it is. And the more we discuss and explore the definition of ‘EAL’ in schools, the better, as it’s important we have a shared understanding of it in order to develop an asset-based approach to EAL pedagogy.

As stated in the DfE English proficiency ad-hoc notice (Feb 2020):

‘Information on a pupil’s first language is collected in the school census. A pupil is recorded as having English as an additional language if she/he is exposed to a language at home that is known or believed to be other than English. It is not a measure of English language proficiency or a good proxy for recent immigration.’

That last sentence is important – ‘EAL’ does not indicate fluency and it does include those pupils who may have arrived some time ago or who were born in the UK. 

It’s also worth noting that if there is more than one language spoken in the home – which includes English – the DfE requests that the language other than English is recorded.

Why might this be a positive thing? Well, if only English is recorded, then the additional language (and the additional cultural richness and sense of identity associated with it) may not be acknowledged, valued and utilised in school for wellbeing and academic success.

How can I find out more about EAL funding?

Our Better Bilingual Guidance on EAL funding for schools 2022-23 gives further information about this topic and we recommend that you talk to your governing body and local authority to find out more about how this funding is allocated (and monitored) locally.

How can schools use this EAL funding to promote DEI in relation to multilingualism?

Every single pupil learning through EAL is different and every school has their own EAL context. At Better Bilingual,  we recommend funding decisions are made after the SLT:

  • looks closely at their pupil population, ensuring that first language data is accurate
  • analyses which particular individuals or groups are doing well (or not so well) 
  • reflects on the strengths of (and needs re) current whole school EAL provision.

Whether the need is for initial pupil assessments, a New Arrivals Policy or CPD on EAL assessment, potential EAL funding accessed through the October Census could be vital in eliminating discrimination and promoting high attainment for ALL our EAL pupils.