Seize a hold on the pole position

7th January 2005 at 00:00
James Heartfield helps you to give a warm welcome to pupils from Poland

About 70, 000 people living in the UK were born in Poland, and most are based in Manchester, Sheffield, Birmingham, West Yorkshire and London.

They include many migrants who settled here in the 1940s, but recently they have been joined by 20,000 more who came here in May after the Polish daily Gazeta Wyborcza reported that "half a million jobs await Poles in the UK".

First stop is the "wailing wall" in west London, once the Polish Social and Cultural Association's noticeboard, now a newsagent next door. Last summer, scores of Poles slept rough in the local park, which continues to be a popular hangout.

Poles are industrious and individualistic, and are here for work. Their economy did not collapse, though many farms are de-populating and there is a lot of insecurity about jobs.

The school system

Schooling is compulsory in Poland from six to 15, but many attend nursery.

After middle-school (gymnasium) most go on to technical and grammar schools (Liceum Ogolnok-sztalcace) up to the age of 19.

Delegates from Suffolk local education authority visited Poland on a fact-finding mission a few years ago and were very surprised by the extent of national testing, but also by the child-centred approach taken in Polish schools.

Some 5,000 children go to Polish Saturday schools in the UK. Polish pupils may find British classrooms unruly as they are used to strict discipline, though physical punishment has been illegal in Poland for longer than in the UK. Detentions or cleaning up the classroom are typical punishments.

Polish parents bring up their children to respect teachers. Most are Roman Catholic, but they do not expect to see acts of worship in schools.


English - Polish - Sounds like

Hello - Czesc - Chesch

Good morning ("good day") - Dzien dobry - Jen dobrey

What's your name? - Yak masz na imie? - Yak mash emmy?

Please - Prosze - Proshuh

Thank you - Dziekuje - Jehkooyuh

Come here - Chodz tu - Hodge too

Sit down - Sigdz - Shoo ch

Toilet - Ubikacja - Oubikatzia


* Don't underestimate your Polish pupils. They may seem quiet and even withdrawn, but they have high expectations of their teachers.

* Polish is a Slavonic language, and there are sounds in Polish that the English language does not have, in which case children might find certain pronunciations difficult.


Polish children get presents on St Nicholas day (December 6) and on Christmas Day. The star of Bethlehem is the most popular element of the Polish Christmas. Families often gather to look for it on Christmas Eve.

Once the star appears, a special rice wafer called "oplatki" is broken and shared by all the family. The feast consists of 12 courses, one for each of the Apostles. Hay is placed under the tablecloth to remind everyone that Christ was born in a stable. Poppy-seed cake, beet soup, prune dumplings and noodles often feature in the celebratory dinner.


* The Polish Educational Society runs Saturday schools for the Polish community Telephone: 020 8741 1993

* The Polish Social and Cultural Association; and

* The Polish Library, 238 - 246 King Street, London W6 0RF. Telephone 020 8741 0474 The library holds a useful collection of children's books in Polish

* Ania's Poland - a private website that reflects the interests of more recent Polish migrants http:www.aniaspoland.comindex.html

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