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£47m cost of teaching English to migrant children in Northern Ireland schools

By Staff Reporter

Published 22/02/2016

Education Minister John O'Dowd
Education Minister John O'Dowd

Almost £50m has been spent to teach English to "newcomer" children in Northern Ireland's schools in the last five years, it has been revealed.

The sum was paid for pupils who did not have a language in common with the teacher.

About £1,000 a year is provided - via the common funding formula (CFF) - to schools for each pupil designated a newcomer.

In the last five years the total amount provided to schools was £47m.

The figure was released by Education Minister John O'Dowd after an Assembly question from Ukip MLA David McNarry.

A Ukip councillor claimed the cash was being diverted from helping locally-born children. Mid and East Antrim Borough councillor Donna Anderson said it was "literally taking money from our own Northern Ireland born schoolchildren to educate the children of immigrants".

"No matter what construction you put on it, the money spent to enable these 'newcomer' pupils to be able to speak English is money that is not available to educate locally-born children," she said.

A "newcomer" child is defined by the Education Minister as "a pupil who does not have a language in common with the teacher in order to access the curriculum".

Ms Anderson added: "Money does not grow on trees and every penny spent in this way is money that is lost to another area.

"This is one of the numerous hidden costs of immigration, and when you add the cost of translation services in health and other areas, you end up with a substantial sum.

"John O'Dowd says that each school has £1,000 additional money given through the common funding formula for each 'newcomer' child each year.

"Therefore, the total amount of £47m spent in this way over five years equates to a total of 47,000 pupils, or 9,400 a year for the last five years.

"This is considerably in excess of the total number of foreign-born children supposed to be in our schools.

"The 2010 School Census shows that some 7,470 school children have a language other than English as their first language. I have to ask why is this sum so high?"

Earlier this month it emerged there were 77 schools with 40 or more children whose native language is not English.

At one school in Co Tyrone, 603 of the 847 pupils do not have English as their first language.

Mr McNarry had asked the Education Minister if the costs of teaching English to pupils who do not have English or Irish as a first language is met out of schools' delegated budgets; and to detail the costs. Mr O'Dowd said individual schools had responsibility to plan and use their funds in accordance with their own needs and priorities.

He said schools can use whatever element of overall budget they deem necessary and appropriate to support newcomer pupils.

Mr O'Dowd added: "My department provides an additional factor of about £1,000 per year, via the Common Funding Formula (CFF) to schools, for each pupil designated a newcomer, that is, a pupil who does not have a language in common with the teacher in order to access the curriculum.

"Over the last five years the total amount provided to schools in respect of the newcomer additional factor was £47m."

Belfast Telegraph

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