Improving education and family wellbeing through multilingualism practice and policy

Language learners_credit Nick Saffell
School students learning about language (credit: Nick Saffell)

The UK is increasingly multilingual. Nevertheless, multilingual families often receive outdated advice to stop using their home languages because children may be ‘confused’ or disadvantaged in their educational attainment. The Cambridge Bilingualism Network (CBN) draws on state-of-the-art research to champion the evidence-based understanding of the benefits of multilingual upbringing.

Since its formation in 2010, a fundamental principle of CBN is that it is a partnership between researchers and the public, and that it engages in public-involved research.

Through partnerships with schoolteachers, speech and language therapists, antenatal course teachers and health visitors, CBN has communicated key messages to over 1,000 professionals, changing teaching practice and school policy, increasing school performance and developing inclusive environments for potentially marginalised children.

CBN’s work has also led to knowledge gains and changes in delivery of services and national-level professional guidelines towards inclusive models benefitting multilingual children and parents in the UK.

Three of CBN’s partners in national leadership and training roles have felt empowered to become multilingualism champions in their fields. Family-oriented messages have also reached directly over 8,500 parents and children, raising confidence and enabling informed decisions on home language use and education.

“The link [with CBN] has been very beneficial in helping to drive forward school improvement, and inspire and support the very diverse and vulnerable school community… the Network has supported the school in a wide range of areas including… engaging and motivating our EAL (English as an Additional Language] and Roma communities.”

– Large inner-city secondary school in Peterborough