Wednesday, 30 April 2008

Pupils from minorities have doubled in a decade

The Daily Mail reports that one in four primary schoolchildren is from an ethnic minority - a doubling of the numbers in a decade. The Government's annual school census painted a picture of a changing Britain where one in seven primary pupils speaks English as a second language. In some London boroughs, children who are likely to need extra help with English comprise three-quarters of the primary school population.

Heads' leaders said schools were under mounting pressure from mass immigration and called on ministers to fund them properly to cope with the array of different languages that pupils speak. They said the figures gave the clearest picture yet of the scale of the challenge facing schools in many parts of the country as they integrate children who lack a command of English. The figures, from the Department for Children, Schools and Families, revealed how ethnic minority children account for 21.4 per cent of England's 6.5million primary and secondary pupils - up from 11 per cent when Labour came to power in 1997.

In primary schools, the figure is 23.3 per cent - up from 21.9 per cent last year and 11.2 per cent in 1997. The biggest group of ethnic minority pupils were classed as Asian, making up 8.9 per cent of primary children and 7.4 per cent of secondary. The numbers from "other white backgrounds" have risen from 74,500 in primary schools in 2004 to 114,900 in the latest census, or 3.5 per cent of total pupils, reflecting arrivals from Eastern Europe and other new EU member states.

Yesterday Mick Brookes, general secretary of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, stressed that schools welcomed new arrivals but said they too often lacked resources to integrate them properly. "There is mounting pressure because of the continued influx of migrant children," he said. "We are now beginning to get a better idea of the scale of the problem. Unless this is addressed, some schools could reach breaking point."

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