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Number of Norwich children not speaking English as first language doubles

PUBLISHED: 06:30 12 November 2019 | UPDATED: 15:55 12 November 2019

A fifth of pupils in Norwich do not speak English as a first language. Photo : Steve Adams

A fifth of pupils in Norwich do not speak English as a first language. Photo : Steve Adams

Copyright Archant Norfolk 2015

In the last five years, the number of children starting school in Norwich with English as a second language has more than doubled.

A fifth of schoolchildren now do not speak English as a first language, while one in three pupils come from an immigrant family.

This has led to schools taking measures to help pupils catch up.

And as the number of foreign-born families increases in Norwich, more parents are becoming dependent on their English-speaking children to manage their day-to-day lives.

According to the 2019 school census, around 19pc of schoolchildren in Norwich - some 3,300 of 17,358 students - do not speak English as a first language, and 29pc were classed as non-white British.

Stuart Allen, headteacher at Mile Cross Primary School, with year one and two pupils. Picture: New Anglia LEPStuart Allen, headteacher at Mile Cross Primary School, with year one and two pupils. Picture: New Anglia LEP

This is in contrast with 2013, where around 9pc of pupils in Norwich schools spoke a different home language.

At Mile Cross Primary School, where 121 of the 460 pupils speak a different language, extra teachers have been placed in key stage one classes for the 45pc of pupils who speak English as an additional language (EAL).

Headteacher Stuart Allen said: "With that change in demographic, those children won't catch up in a year but they are learning quickly."

The school, in Brasier Road, has added more teachers in its reception classes - going up from three to five members of staff.

Stuart Allen, Headteacher, Mile Cross Primary School, Norwich. Picture: Jamie HoneywoodStuart Allen, Headteacher, Mile Cross Primary School, Norwich. Picture: Jamie Honeywood

"There is a wealth of different backgrounds and we are learning from different cultures," Mr Allen said. "Many of the parents hold education as the most important priority for their children."

Elsewhere, north Norfolk had the lowest number of children speaking a different language, at 3pc, and the highest number of White British pupils at 93pc.

In Broadland schools, around 5pc of pupils spoke a different first language, compared to 6pc in south Norfolk, 12pc in west Norfolk and Great Yarmouth and 13pc in Breckland.

But children are able learn English a lot quicker than their parents, said teacher Rosie Sexton, who set up English Plus, a charity which provides language courses to immigrants, asylum seekers and refugees in Norwich.

She said parents are finding themselves having to play catch up to interact with their families.

"It's a hard place to be when your children are more integrated and have better language skills," she said.

"For many people who come to Norwich, their children go straight to school and the parents only get two or three hours of classes a week."

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When the charity was set up in 2011, there were on average around five pupils in a class.

Now, that number has grown to 80 pupils from around 50 countries, with the majority speaking Arabic.

Mrs Sexton said: "The numbers have gone up hugely and this year we have 20 people on a waiting list."

Figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) reveal the number of people living in Norwich who were born outside of the UK was an estimated 21,000 in 2018 - compared to 17,000 in 2011 - accounting for 15pc of the population.

UEA Muslim students gather at the UEA to pray. Picture : ANTONY KELLYUEA Muslim students gather at the UEA to pray. Picture : ANTONY KELLY

Of those, the majority - some 10,000 people - are from other EU countries while around 5,000 people are from South Asia.

For some, the city has become a place of opportunity for their families.

Marwaza Parwani, 34, who is originally from Afghanistan, moved to Norwich in 2016 with her three British-born children aged 16, 13 and seven.

At the age of 18, she fled from her home town of Kunduz to escape the Taliban in 2003.

"When the Taliban is in the country, girls are not allowed to go out of the house without a brother or husband," she said.

"It was hard. My brother, he was younger than me, he graduated and he was allowed to go and study any subject, the schools were shut down for girls.

"I couldn't go shopping. I could only go with my father.

"When I came here everything was different."

After 13 years in London, Ms Parwani relocated to Norwich, but she said she found it difficult to readjust to life in the city.

"The way people look you know that they don't want you to be here," she said. "They don't say anything but I feel it.

"My children were born here but they don't feel like they are from this country. The people around them make them feel like they don't belong.

"But they like Norwich, they have friends here."

Across Norfolk, an estimated 81,000 people, around 9c of the population, were born outside of the UK.

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