Belfast Telegraph

Friday 25 April 2014

English not pupils' mother tongue

Rising numbers of schoolchildren do not speak English as their first language, official figures show.

New data reveals more than a million youngsters do not have English as their mother tongue, and the numbers have increased by almost a quarter of a million in the past five years.

The figures also show an increase in the number of pupils in England who are classed as being from an ethnic minority background, with nearly three in 10 primary school children in this category.

In the last year alone, the numbers of children who speak English as an additional language have risen by almost 54,000, according to statistics published by the Department for Education (DfE).

In primary schools, almost one in five pupils speak another language at home. Overall, the figures show that 1,061,010 million children in England's state primary, secondary and special schools, as well as pupil referral units (PRUs) had a first language that is known or believed to be other than English.

This is up from 1,007,090 youngsters in 2012 - an extra 53,920 pupils.

In 2008, around 832,790 children spoke English as a second language, although this figure does not include those being taught in PRUs. It means that the numbers have risen by around 227,000 in the last five years.

A breakdown of the DfE statistics - which are a snapshot of England's schools taken in January this year - show that 18.1% of primary school pupils speak a first language that is not English, along with 13.6% of those in secondary schools, 12.7% of those taught in special schools and 8.7% of those at PRUs.

Almost a million primary school children - 965,110 in total (28.5%) are considered to be from a minority ethnic background, along with nearly a quarter (775,710, or 24.2%) of those taught in state secondaries, the figures show.

Last year 27.6% of primary-age children and 23.2% of those in secondary schools were classed as being of "minority ethnic origin".

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