Suffolk: Headteachers say up to 44% of pupils do not speak English as a first language

HEADTEACHERS have revealed that sometimes nearly half of their pupils do not speak English as a first language.

Staff at Ipswich primary schools said the increasing number of EAL pupils means that a fixed government grant designed to pay for extra resources boils down to just �385 per child.

Paul Tebbutt, headteacher at Hillside Community Primary School, where 22 per cent of their 400-plus students do not speak English as a first language, said more support was needed for the town’s schools.

He said: “In order to cope with lots of issues we have employed our own family support worker because some children do arrive at the school not speaking a word of English.

“It does takes time for the teachers.

“But the children come here excited to learn. They grasp every opportunity that is offered to them – and when they learn those first things it is wonderful.”

Mr Tebbutt said: “We have 26 different languages that are spoken at the school. We have Portuguese, Polish, Lithuanian, Ukrainian, Arabic, the list goes on.

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“We have previously had pupils from Burma, and pupils who speak Xhosa.”

He added: “We had one child from Iceland and there is only one certified interpreter in the UK.”

All children at the school are taught in the same way, starting with concrete objects, numbers and colours.

“It doesn’t take that long for the children to learn. In six months they are generally speaking well with solid language skills. Then there is a hiatus for two or three months before they will start to develop the technical understanding of the language, needed to understand science and history.”

Mr Tebbutt said the school received a �43,500 grant for EAL pupils this year, which equates to about �385 per child.

He added: “I think what would greatly help everyone was if the parents could be offered language lessons at a reduced cost, so parents can access the school because they desperately want their children to do well.”

Sue Todd, headteacher of St Matthew’s CEVAP School said in 2012, 44pc of children did not speak English as a first language.

She said the cultural mix helped develop important life skills for the children.

“The children all get on with each other. All sorts of groups mix that you would not expect. We have so many groups that no one really stands out”.

She added: “The children are very accepting, if people arrive who cannot speak any English then they will make sure that the pupil is in the right place at the right time.”

Ms Todd, who said the school has a specialised EAL teacher and assistant teacher, agreed that language lessons for parents would help and said the local church was already offering free language lessons for women during a Coffee Break morning.