English is second tongue for one-tenth of pupils

4th July 2003 at 01:00
HOW multicultural are state schools in England? More than 10 per cent of primary children and 9 per cent of secondary pupils do not have English as their first language. But, according to recently released figures from this January's pupil census, at least three in four primary pupils, and four in five secondary pupils, still fit the description "white British".

Asians from the Indian sub-continent form the second-largest ethnic group in schools. They account for more than 7 per cent of primary children and 6 per cent of secondary pupils. Children of Pakistani origin are the biggest Asian group in primaries, but Indians outnumber Pakistanis in secondary schools. Perhaps surprisingly, primary schools now have more black African pupils than black Caribbean children. However, in secondary schools, there are similar numbers from both ethnic groups.

Mixed-race pupils make up the fourth largest ethnic group - a reflection of Britain's increasingly complex society. They now account for 3 per cent of pupils in primaries and 2 per cent in secondaries.

Despite Britain's quarter-century membership of the EU, and the recent influx of asylum-seekers from Eastern Europe, only 2 per cent of pupils are from "other white backgrounds".

Based on these figures, the Teacher Training Agency should be aiming to recruit about 20 per cent of new teachers from minority groups.

John Howson is a visiting professor at Oxford Brookes University and a director of Education Data Surveys

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