Here, Objective 2 is stated to be: 'To investigate the issue of equal opportunities with regard to teaching and learning in the current educational context'. This research study is a response to this objective from one of the research teams involved in the initiative, that based at the University of Birmingham and responsible for the main language-related project within the initiative (Mitchell et al., 1994a,b).
The particular concern of the Birmingham project within the ESRC Initiative was with language education and, in particular, with the role of explicit teaching and discussion about the nature of language curriculum (an issue which was salient in the early versions of the National Curriculum for English. though it has been progressively sidelined in most respects in later revisions). Our fieldwork concentrated on the language curriculum of Year 9 and was conducted in three case study schools in the South of England. One of these was selected because it was known to have a substantial minority of bilingual pupils (around 10%) and small numbers of bilinguals were also present in the other two schools. Our main concern with 'equal opportunities' was to investigate the language curriculum as it operates for this particular group of pupils and it is this particular perspective on 'equal opportunity' which will be reported in this research study.
Policy Developments in United Kingdom
Derrick (1977) and Bourne (1989) outline the history of language curriculum provision for bilingual pupils in British schools in the post-war period. Throughout, access to English has been the major priority in government and Local Education Authority (LEA)-sponsored programmes. After an initial 'sink or swim' period, specialist programmes of English language instruction were established in areas with substantial New Commonwealth immigrant communities, initially through the creation of specialist language teaching centres or units. By the 1980s, however, 'mainstreaming' policies providing English language support in the normal classroom context were coming into favour and were given encouragement by the strongly integrationist tone of the Swann Report [Department of Education and Science (DES), 1985] and by growing criticisms of English Language Centres as educationally disadvantageous and racially discriminatory in effect [Commission for Racial Equality (CRE), 1986]. The DES itself promoted the concepts of entitlement to the mainstream curriculum and classroom-based language support through HMI commentary (DES, 1988a) and through promotion of a policy of so-called 'partnership teaching' involving classroom collaboration between specialists in English as a second language (E2L) and mainstream teachers [National Foundation for Educational Research (NFER), 1991]. Since the 1960s, special funding provided by the Home Office to supplement educational provision for New Commonwealth immigrants has been the major source of support for language support staffing (Bourne, 1989). In the late 1980s this 'Section 11' funding was recast, with new stringent conditions ensuring that money was narrowly targeted on English language