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Polish children swell rolls

An influx of 4,000 Polish immigrant workers in the fish and tourism industries in the Highlands has had an unexpected but direct impact on education.

Around 400 extra children have arrived to swell school rolls and now need tuition in English as a second language. Highland Council has been forced to raid its budget for improving adult literacy to meet the demands of children and their parents.

Ian Murray, head of community learning and leisure, said that there was an emerging problem in rural areas, where immigrants can feel more isolated and where services such as language tuition are more difficult to provide.

Mr Murray said: "In schools, there are over 400 children with first languages other than English. These range from Cantonese, through Polish, Bengali and Thai. That is just 1.2 per cent of the school population but an increase of 27 per cent on last year."

The council is pressing for extra support to cover the unforeseen costs. It hopes that a Scottish Executive consultation on a strategy for teaching English as a second language will lead to extra funds as more immigrants head north.

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