Posted on November 26, 2007

English Is the Foreign Language for 40% of Primary School Pupils

This Is London, November 26, 2007

Schools are struggling to cover the cost of providing specialist teachers for thousands of new immigrant pupils, headteachers warned today.

Forty per cent of primary age children in London now speak a language other than English at home and some schools take several new arrivals a week as pupils “appear from nowhere”, heads have said.

The National Association of Head Teachers called for schools to be given the “infrastructure” they needed to get pupils whose first language is not English fluent enough to cope with the national curriculum as soon as possible.

Forty per cent of primary age children in London now speak a language other than English at home

The NAHT warned that the Government’s Ethnic Minority Achievement Grant, which is doled out by Whitehall to town halls to allocate among schools according to need, was failing to cover the cost of English as an Additional Language teachers.

NAHT leader Mick Brookes said: “These children are welcome in our schools but we need the capacity to look after them properly.”

Latest government figures show that the capital’s primary schools alone took in more than 197,000 children for whom English is not their first language this year, up from just over 190,000 last year.

Secondary schools’ proportion of non-native English speakers rose from 33.5 per cent to 35.3 per cent.

Most are concentrated in inner London—in Tower Hamlets, three quarters of children in primary schools are now not native English speakers.

Ofsted research has shown that primary schools typically spent their EMAG on a single EAL teacher, supported by a classroom assistant.

But Ofsted also found that primary schools with a track record of successfully integrating EAL pupils were forced to find thousands of pounds more from their general budgets. Most had suffered cuts in their EMAG grants.

“Schools were pessimistic about being able to sustain the excellent work they had built up over the years if funding continued to decline,” said Ofsted.

Clarissa Williams, head of Tolworth Girls’ School in Kingston, said she got £1,300 from the Government to teach English to foreign pupils, and topped that up with another £30,000.

“These children just turn up on your doorstep and it places a significant additional strain on budgets,” she said.

A spokesman for the Department for Children, Schools and Families insisted the EMAG was keeping up with demand, saying it was going up from £178.6million this year to £206.6million in 2010-11.