More cash needed to help foreign kids

STEVE DOWNES The number of foreign children in Norfolk's schools has surged by 140 per cent in two years - and schools need more money to help them to settle in and learn the language.

STEVE DOWNES

The number of foreign children in Norfolk's schools has surged by 140 per cent in two years - and schools need more money to help them to settle in and learn the language.

Figures obtained by the EDP reveal that the number of overseas children getting help from support staff rose from 1,119 in 2005 to 1,850 last year and to 2,682 this year.

The number of different languages spoken by the youngsters increased in one year from 88 to 101, while there are now 262 schools with at least one foreign child - up from 233 in 2006.

The figures show how many children were assisted by Norfolk County Council's English language support service (ELSS). But they are believed to be close to an accurate reflection of overall numbers.

According to education chiefs, the influx is broadening the horizons of local children, who are learning to mix more readily with people from other cultures.

Most Read

But it is also putting a strain on resources and schools as the ELSS tries to give language and assimilation assistance to growing numbers of children.

David Sheppard, the council's senior adviser (equalities and special school development), said: “Money is always our difficulty. There's no special funding for English as an additional language.

“The view of the government is that the needs of every child should be met through the mainstream funding. From our service's point of view, we would like a nice fat grant to double the size of our service. But it's not going to happen.”

Many of the children come from families who have migrated to Norfolk in search of work.

Of the 2,682 children helped by ELSS, 839 are Portuguese (up from 675 last year), 287 Polish (132), 221 Lithuanian (123) and 102 Arabic (85).

The big recent increase is largely down to the many mig-rant workers arriving from the eight accession states of the European Union, includ-ing Poland and Lithuania.

Mr Sheppard said the influx was not creating noticeable tension in classrooms.

“Generally the situation is very good. Our children are gradually getting more and more used to being in diverse classrooms.”

He added: “Schools have to be very well organised and very thoughtful about how they plan the work. They need to have mind for parts of the lesson that are going to need additional explanation for the children whose language is developing. The more exper-ienced our schools become in planning work and catering for a range of language levels, the easier they find it.”

He said the situation was eased when schools had groups of overseas children, which happened regularly because migrants often moved to where their compatriots were already living.

The top 20 ethnic minority languages spoken in Norfolk's schools: Portuguese, Polish, Lithuanian, Arabic, Bengali, Russian, Tagalog, Latvian, Spanish, Thai, Malayalam, Cantonese, German, Turkish, Chinese, French, Shona, Kurdish, Philipino, Urdu.

Become a Supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Become a Supporter