Growing up bilingual: language proficiency, social identities and competences of complementary school-attendees and non-attendees in the UK

Layal Husain, Virginia Lam

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The UK is linguistically rich but faces a reducing uptake of language learning in schools, as pupils feel more withdrawn and disinterested in learning an additional language to English. A key component in many linguistic minority communities to preserve their language is complementary schooling (CS), which has wide-ranging educational and societal implications. This study compared social developmental outcomes and patterns among bilingual children who attended CS and those who did not in London. A sample of 153 pupils aged 4–9 years was recruited including 73 across five CS settings and 80 across four state primary schools. Measures included strength of ethnic and national identities, cognitive, athletic and social competences, exposure and proficiency for each language, and family affluence (FA). Results showed that CS-attendees reported higher proficiency in HL, particularly in literacy, compared to non-attendees. Ethnic and British identities were positively associated with the respective language’s proficiency and exposure in both groups, while unique patterns were also observed. Regression models confirmed the unique contributions of HL and CS to ethnic identity, but age and FA were also significant predictors of English proficiency and social competencies. Findings indicate the supportive roles of CS and HL and identity development. Further considerations of these and other factors in subsequent research are discussed.
funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC Grant Reference: ES/P000592/1), through the UBEL Doctoral Training Partnership

© 2021, Taylor & Francis. The attached document (embargoed until 06/04/2023) is an author produced version of a paper published in LANGUAGE AND EDUCATION uploaded in accordance with the publisher’s self-archiving policy. The final published version (version of record) is available online at the link. Some minor differences between this version and the final published version may remain. We suggest you refer to the final published version should you wish to cite from it.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-17
Number of pages17
JournalLanguage and Education
Early online date6 Oct 2021
Publication statusPublished - 6 Oct 2021


  • Education
  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language

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