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Individual and institutional perspectives on barriers to progression to higher education for students with English as an additional language

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Howard, Katie B 


Abstract Almost one in five students in UK schools are recorded as speaking English as an additional language (EAL), a label which encompasses a hugely diverse group of students in terms of their first language(s), educational background, socio-economic status and attainment profiles. A growing body of evidence suggests that attainment gaps between EAL students and their English-as-first-language peers decrease substantially as they progress through their schooling. In spite of this, in some areas EAL students remain relatively less likely to continue with their studies beyond the age of 16. There is therefore a pressing need to further explore the factors which influence choices made by this particular group when considering progression to higher education. To this end, an exploratory, qualitative study was conducted in three secondary level institutions in a large city in the North of England, each with a high proportion of EAL students. Group interviews were conducted with a total of 52 staff and EAL students. This paper presents key findings which relate to sources of information and support for EAL students and identifies particular barriers to higher education for students, institutions and parents. We conclude with several practical recommendations for widening participation.



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Widening Participation and Lifelong Learning

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Centre for Widening Participation

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