The influx of Polish immigrants after 2005 boosted the performance of native children in school, a new study has found.
The finding, in a Centre for Economic Performance (CEP) report, suggests that even though many of the new arrivals spoke little or no English, their presence boosted performance among their English-born classmates.
"One possibility is that the children catch up fast and they may have other things about them in their own environment that make them good to have in your school, they might have very motivated parents for example," Sandra McNally, professor of economics at Surrey University, said.
Census results from 2005-2009 found that schools with a higher percentage of children for whom English was not their first language did get lower results in English and maths tests, although no direct link was found once the results were controlled for other factors, such as deprivation.
When researchers switched their attention to white non-native speakers – mostly eastern Europeans – their focus was mainly on Catholic schools, where there was a more substantial improvement in test scores.
The period saw no decline in English results, despite the influx of non-native speakers – and a small but noticeable upswing in maths results.
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Researchers concluded that if new arrivals increased by ten per cent, there would be a full one per cent improvement in English-born students test results.