One in six primary school pupils in England has a first language other than English. But there are significant differences across the country. Many pupils with English as an additional language are in the conurbations that stretch from Merseyside to Yorkshire and in parts of London. By contrast, there are some areas where fewer than one in 100 pupils has a native tongue other than English.
Topping the list of authorities where primary pupils have a first language other than English is Tower Hamlets, a part of London that has been home to immigrants for many centuries. More than three-quarters of primary pupils in the borough fit into this category, although some may also be regarded as bilingual.
Slough is the only other area where a majority of primary pupils are recorded as not having English as their first language. There are a clutch of other authorities where more than four out of ten pupils fall into this category. These include Blackburn with Darwen, Bradford, Leicester, Birmingham and Luton. At the other end of the scale, Redcar and Cleveland, Halton in Cheshire, the East Riding of Yorkshire, Derbyshire, Shropshire, Cornwall and the Isle of Wight all have fewer than one in 50 of their primary pupils for whom English is not their first language.
The Government's proposed pupil premium may well take the needs of multi-language schools into account when allocating funds. Teacher trainers probably ought to spend more time considering how to train primary school teachers to cope with the demands of multilingual urban classrooms, where 20 or more languages might be spoken. Even in authorities where the overall numbers of pupils who have a first language other than English are low, there can be individual schools where a concentration of children speaking many different languages can enrich the school and pose a challenge at the same time.
John Howson is director of Education Data Surveys, part of TSL Education.
PERCENTAGE OF PRIMARY PUPILS WHO HAVE A FIRST LANGUAGE OTHER THAN ENGLISH
Tower Hamlets: 77.8%
Blackburn with Darwen: 40.5%
Central Bedfordshire: 3.2%
Isle of Wight: 1.9%
East Riding: 1.8%
Redcar and Cleveland: 0.9%
Local authorities with the highest and lowest figure in each region.