Thursday, 31 May 2007

Schools overwhelmed by immigrants

Figures compiled by the Home Office reveal 4,200 children were brought from the former Eastern Bloc to Britain by their parents in the first three months of this year, or 65 every school day.

It takes the total number of dependent children known by the Government to be living here to 30,000, although huge deficiencies in Government data mean the figure is likely to be an underestimate.

Schools have no option but to devote thousands of pounds and hundreds of hours trying to bring the newcomers up to the same standard as British youngsters.

David Green, director of the Civitas think-tank, said last night: "We do not have the capacity to cope with these numbers, but it is not possible to stop people from coming, so schools have to do the best they can.

"This must be having a detrimental effect on schools. We have seen in London that, where there are a lot of non-English speakers, the standards are very low.

"When a large number of children go into schools, it is very hard for the staff to accommodate them because they are effectively starting from first base and specialist teachers have to be brought in."

A few points on this:

First, the figure of 30,000+ is enough on itself to give cause for concern. Even spread equally across the entire country, this would be a lot of extra children. However, what is happening is that certain towns and cities, particularly, it seems, Slough, are taking a disproportionate number of these new children. So what we have is a situation where some areas are experiencing practically no change, while others are stretched to breaking point and beyond by these immigrants.

Second, the harm done by this does not just extend to the financial costs of coping with children who can speak not a word of English. There is also the damage to British children: if you are one of only a handful of native English speakers, in a class where the main language is Polish or Romanian, it is likely that your skills in those languages are likely to increase faster than your skills in English. In any event, the amount of extra time given over to explaining things to the immigrant children, and to making up the deficiencies in their basic knowledge, will inevitably mean that there is less time to be spent getting on with teaching what the children should be learning, and what they would be learning, if there were no immigrants.

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