Demand for extra help never ends

29th June 2001 at 01:00
Clare Dean reports on the funding challenges for local education authorities with a high population of asylum-seekers

FROM Abe, Abkhaz and Abua to Yoruba, Zande and Zulu, there are 300 languages spoken by children in London's schools. There are some classes in schools in the capital where every child has English as a second language, with pupils needing more than 500 additional teaching hours in their first year simply to cope.

When they reach a reasonable standard in English, council leaders say they are invariably replaced by another child who needs the same level of intensive tutoring.

One group of seven 15-year-olds at an outer-London secondary needed extra support and help costing the equivalent of more than pound;48,000. Six of the pupils were recent arrivals in the UK and spoke 10 different languages. Between them they had 1,464 additional hours of teaching.

At another outer-London secondary, 823 out of the 1,036 pupils have English as an additional language, and the school has spent pound;155,276 on extra support staff.

Across the capital there are nearly 26,000 destitute asylum-seeking children cared for by council social services departments, according to the Association of London Government.

The Refugee Council estimates that there are 60,000 refugee and asylum-seeking children in London, with a further 1,000 out of school unable to secure a place.

Data collected by London councils shows that there is a link between a lack of fluency in English and underachievement in the national key stage tests and GCSEs.

Research by the Office for Standards in Education has shown that the gap between the performance of many ethnic minority groups and white pupils at GCSE has actually grown over the last decade.

Providing the extra educational support that ethnic-minority pupils need has a price, but it can take between 18 and 22 months for the money to get through to local authorities, according to the ALG.

London is now battling to ensure that it does not lose out as the Government radically reviews the way councils are funded.

"It is vital that when re-examining education funding we consider the diverse needs of all our pupils as well as the serious recruitment crisis that many schools now face," said Sir Robin Wales, ALG chair.

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