Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 23 April 2014

Foreign language pupils need better provision

A recent article in the Belfast Telegraph (News, June 10) stated "the number of children without English as their first language being taught in Northern Ireland's schools has increased by almost 600% in just eight years" and there are currently 7,899 "newcomer children" in schools here, compared with 1,366 during the 2001/02 school year.

The reality is that EU migrant children from countries like Poland, Romania, the Czech Republic and Lithuania often arrive at school without uniform, money, packed lunch, friends, parents or even basic English. Many do not even know how to get home.

Parents or relatives, when they can be contacted, are of little help for they also cannot speak English.

What happens to these EU migrant children in school? In the secondary sector with no English they are usually placed into a 'challenging' low-stream ability class. (They may be bright, but teachers cannot test to tell and there is never information from feeder countries or parents.)

Here they sit, hopefully picking up bits of English, either helped ignored or mocked depending on the others in the class. Designated language staff can only see them for a short time each week. Classroom assistants are a help, but there is always the language barrier. Money to pay for this extra provision naturally comes out of the school budget.

Given that under EU freedom of movement law we are required to have an open door to migrants, could someone please explain how teachers and schools with high numbers of migrant children as pupils are supposed to cope?

T J McCLEAN

Belfast

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