140 languages spoken by pupils in district bring classroom challenges (From Bradford Telegraph and Argus)
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140 languages spoken by pupils in district bring classroom challenges
Almost 140 different languages are the mother tongues of children at primary schools in the Bradford district with 43 per cent of pupils speaking English as a second language, according to latest figures. Languages and dialects from across the globe are spoken by more than 23,000 of the 54,146 primary school pupils in the Bradford district.
More than a third of children whose first language is not English speak dialects of Panjabi with Urdu, Bengali and Hindko among other common mother tongues.
There are also significant numbers of pupils speaking Eastern and Northern European languages such as Slovak, Polish, Latvian and Russian as well as other Asian languages including Chinese, Burmese and Filipino.
A first language other than English is recorded where a child was exposed to a different language during early development and continues to be exposed to this language in the home or in the community.
Byron Primary School in Barkerend Road has the highest proportion of children – 96.3 per cent – whose first language is not English, according to the figures obtained by the Telegraph & Argus using the Freedom of Information Act.
Bryon head teacher Richard O’Sullivan described the situation as an opportunity, rather than a problem.
Last year 79 per cent of Year Six pupils attained the standards required in English and maths, exceeding both the Bradford and national averages, placing the school in the top 25 per cent of schools across the country.
Mr O’Sullivan said: “The majority of our children start school with levels of English language development that are below national averages.
“However, many of these children are exceptional linguists with the ability to switch between languages. By Year Six, thanks to fantastic teaching, confidence and ability in English have developed and the learning skills acquired as very young linguists contribute to pupil progress. Figures last year showed children were leaving here in line with the national average for maths and above the national average for English.”
The diversity of languages now spoken by children in the district follow claims last year by Ian Murch, Bradford branch secretary for the National Union of Teachers, that tighter budgets were causing greater challenges to schools where significant numbers of pupils speak English as a second language, with some losing interpreter services due to staff cuts.
Councillor Ralph Berry, Bradford Council’s executive member for children and young people, said some schools were working hard to expose pupils to well spoken English at every possible opportunity so they could become familiar with the language as quickly as possible.
He added: “There are a number of primaries that have had language diversity that have been rated good and outstanding by Ofsted and children leave with the required standard in English and maths.
“The schools with the greatest challenge are those that have children coming in at different points in the year. I am aware we need to do more to get certain language skills into staffing. We have been here before 20, 30 years ago and you need to work with it. I know it’s a challenge but these children only get one chance at primary education.”
Councillor Roger L’Aime, education spokesman for the Council’s Conservative group, said it was essential children became fluent in English as soon as possible.
He said: “All Bradford children by a fairly early age must be fluent speakers in English because if they are not it’s obviously going to be a limiting factor on both their education and job opportunities and their ability to become integrated members of the wider community.”
Councillor Jeanette Sunderland, leader of the Council’s liberal democrat group, said: “The quality of the language they are learning is what matters. Parents need to take and read to their children at home. It’s part of the challenge and opportunity living in a city like ours brings.”
Bradford Council received £6.9m from the Ethnic Minority Achievement Grant, which included help for pupils with English as an additional language, in 2010-11. Funding is now included within the Dedicated Schools Grant, through which local authorities and schools determine support for pupils with English as an additional language.