Shock rise in foreign pupils

SUFFOLK: Increasing numbers of pupils at Suffolk schools do not speak English as a first language – putting a strain on teachers who struggle to cater for multiple nationalities in the classroom.

The Evening Star has learnt in the last three years, the number of non-English speaking secondary school students has rocketed by 64 per cent, while there has been a 34pc rise in primary schools.

Today, a leading teaching union urged education bosses to provide more funding to help staff cope with the influx of youngsters from abroad.

Graham White, Suffolk secretary of the National Union of Teachers, said he was aware of children arriving at schools in the county without being able to speak a word of English.

“The concern teachers have is sometimes children turn up at very short notice and there’s the problem of communication,” he said.

Figures released following a Freedom of Information request reveal 5.19pc of the county’s primary school children – 2,277 pupils – do not speak English as a first language, up from 3.88pc in 2007.

At secondary schools, the current figure stands at 3.32pc (1,751 pupils), up from 2.02pc three years ago.

Most Read

While the numbers across the county are below the national average, Mr White said certain parts of Suffolk bore the brunt – including Ipswich.

“We are lucky that we don’t have many non-English speaking children in Suffolk so the pressure on staff is not so great as it is in some other parts of the country,” he said.

“But I’m guessing the number is much higher in Ipswich and in north Suffolk where there are more agricultural workers.

“There is support from the county but we would like even more support and more specialist staff who speak a whole range of languages.”

He said in some cases, foreign children with a better grasp of English were used as translators in the classroom.

More than 30 languages, other than English, are spoken by Suffolk pupils, including Polish, Estonian, Malayalam and Icelandic.

Nationally, 16pc of pupils in primary schools and 11.6pc of children in secondary schools do not use English as a first language.

Adrian Orr, Suffolk County Council’s senior advisor for social inclusion, said significant resources – around �1.3m this year – were put into helping students who do not speak English as a first language.

“The numbers in Suffolk are relatively small,” he said. “There is an issue in terms of numbers rising but I think teachers have risen to the challenge.

“Resources are targeted at where they are most needed.”

n Are you surprised at the increase? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or e-mail