Posted on March 23, 2012

Children Who Speak English as Their Main Language at Home Are Now in the Minority in 1,600 Schools Across Britain

Suzannah Hills, Daily Mail (London), March 22, 2012

The number of children who count English as their mother tongue are now in the minority at more than 1,600 schools across England.

The new figures show that close to one million children who now attend schools in England do not have English as their first language at home – with the multicultural effects of migration now showing in the nation’s classrooms.

And the amount of schools with a majority of pupils who do not class English at their home language is steadily increasing by one a week.

There are 97 schools where children with English as their first language are in such a minority that they make up less than one in twenty pupils.

The statistics released by the Department of Education shows that in 1997, when Tony Blair first came to power, there were 866 schools in England where more than 50 per cent of the pupils had English as a second language.

Last year that figure had nearly doubled in just 14 years to 1,638 schools.

Now there are 1,363 primary schools, 224 secondary schools and 51 special schools where more than half the pupils come from a non-English speaking background.

One in six youngsters in primary schools – 547,000 – do not have English as their first language.

In secondary schools the figure stands at 400,000 – just over one in eight.

A recent study found that Punjabi was the most frequently spoken language among pupils who did not have English as a first language.

After that the most popular languages were Urdu, Bengali, Gujarati, Somali, Polish, Arabic, Portuguese, Turkish and Tamil.

But schools also have to cope with sizable populations of pupils who speak Shqip from Albania and Kosovo, Igbo from parts of Nigeria, Luganda from Uganda, Sinhala from Sri Lanka and Amharic from Ethiopia.

In the 14 boroughs that comprise Inner London, there are 98,000 schoolchildren whose first language is not English, compared with just 79,000 who speak English at home.

Within the London boroughs, Newham had the highest amount with 79 schools, followed by Tower Hamlets with 70, Brent with 57 and Ealing with 55 schools.

London was followed by Birmingham with 117 schools where more than 50 per cent of pupils do not have English as their first language while the borough of Halton in Cheshire had the lowest with just 0.9 per cent.

Anastasia De Waal, head of Family and Education at the think tank Civitas, said: ‘It is vital that schools are organised in such a way to adequately accommodate pupils who start school in the UK with weak English language foundations.

‘In our often highly standardised classroom situations schools are frequently asked to side-step language barriers.

‘This significantly and needlessly hampers the progress of those children without secure English, as well as the progress of their peers.’

After London and Birmingham, Bradford came next with 59 schools followed by Leicester with 40 schools.

Manchester has 35 schools, while Lancashire has 30 schools and Kirklees has 27. Luton has 22 schools and Slough 19.

The local authority areas with the smallest proportion of pupils who have English as a second language are Halton with 0.9 per cent and Redcar and Cleveland also with 0.9 per cent.

They were closely followed by Derbyshire with 1.3 per cent, Rutland 1.5 with per cent, St Helens with 1.5 per cent, and Cornwall with 1.6 per cent.