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Non-native speakers slip the net

Children whose first language is not English may have special needs that are masked by their inability to speak English, a conference will hear next week.

Many new arrivals to Britain have gone undiagnosed in their own countries, where early identification and intervention are not as readily available. Once here, they risk slipping through the cracks because teachers mistakenly believe their learning problems stem from not being native speakers.

Strategies to support such pupils will be discussed at Special Needs North, an free exhibition organised by The TES and Nasen, formerly the National Association for Special Educational Needs, in Manchester next Friday and Saturday. It will include more than 30 seminars examining strategies that integrate pupils with special needs. It will feature many of the country's eminent practitioners in special needs education, and will bring together more than 6,000 professionals.

Topics for discussion will include bullying, mental health, academic disengagement, reaching disinterested parents, autism and behaviour management in the classroom.

Anita Devi, a special needs advisory teacher who works in Milton Keynes, will lead seminars on integrating bilingual children with special needs into schools. She will look at supporting pupils using different learning styles, visual tools and memory strategies.

"Most children who come here with little or no English language skills make very quick progress and sometimes exceed the achievements of their peers," she said.

"The ones we are concerned about are those who continue to underachieve and make little progress, despite a huge amount of support to bring their literacy and communication skills up to standard. We believe that the difficulty in learning English may be masking other learning difficulties, which teachers need to learn how to identify and address."

Bullying policy, page 30

- Tickets for seminars at Special Needs North at Manchester Central next Friday and Saturday (April 18-19) are available for pound;15 (pound;13 if you book in advance). Go to

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