1 in 7 primary school pupils don’t speak English as first language

Government making efforts to enhance English teaching

18th March 2009: English is not the first language of one in seven primary school pupils in the UK, new figures reveal.

The figures uncovered by Shadow immigration minister Damian Green show that 565,888 primary school children do not use English as their first language. This represents an increase of more than 25% since 2004 (452,388).

In some areas, more than 70% of four to 11-year-olds do not have English as their first language.

Mr. Green said the increase in the number of pupils for whom English was a second language was making life difficult for teachers, parents and pupils and called for an annual limit on immigration, The Press Association reported.

But the Government has assured that it is making efforts to "bring students weak in English up to speed".

A "comprehensive support package" is available for new arrivals, the Department for Children, Schools and Families (DCSF) said.

A DCSF spokesman said: "The language of instruction in English schools is and always has been English.

"We have listened to concerns of headteachers and are increasing funding in the Ethnic Minority Achievement Grant to £206m by 2010, to bring students weak in English up to speed. We also equip schools to offer effective English as an Additional Language (EAL) teaching for new arrivals, with a comprehensive support package."

Mr. Green said: "The shocking figures show why we need an annual limit on immigration.

"The number of pupils with English as a second language makes life difficult for teachers, parents and pupils."

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