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90 languages in Edinburgh’s schools

Polish, Urdu and Punjabi are the most commonly-spoken languages

 

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25 February 2009 – New Scottish Government figures reveal that 90 languages are now spoken in Edinburgh’s schools, with Polish, Urdu and Punjabi the most common, besides English.

A total of 3996 children in the city’s schools do not speak English as their first language, which is a rise of more than 500 from 2007.

The increase is likely to be linked to the growing number of asylum seekers and refugees, which more than doubled in the last year, with from 32 to 84.

Many children moving to Edinburgh can speak no English at all: nearly 600 pupils who speak one of the 90 languages in Edinburgh’s schools were just starting to learn English last year, the new figures reveal. This means that additional resources are to be put into schools to help them learn.

These are provided through the English as an Additional Language (EAL) service, which offers support for bilingual pupils and their teachers in schools and currently costs more than £1 million-a-year to run.

Councillor Marilyne MacLaren, the city’s education leader, said: "We are doing everything possible to ensure that these pupils and their families are given the support they require, including training of staff on issues such as equality."

Since 2004, the number of pupils receiving extra tuition from the EAL unit has risen by more than 50 per cent in the city.

Although unions have previously warned that teachers are struggling to provide the extra support needed by these kinds of children, a head-teacher at one of the Edinburgh’s most culturally diverse schools says children quickly pick up English just by being in classes with their peers, reports the Edinburgh Evening News.

David Fleming has children from 33 different countries at Dalry Primary – most of whom started the school with basic or no English skills at all. Although the school uses various teaching aids, such as dual language books, the children often learn directly from their peers, he claims.

"We get children who come here who may speak a minority language and it’s a slow process but we cater for everyone”, says Mr. Fleming. "It takes maybe a year before they can acquire language skills but we always keep them with their peers all the way along. It’s quite the norm for us to get children who don’t speak any English, but these children have a need and the school adapts."

The council’s EAL service allows the school to offer several heritage language classes after school and at weekends for youngsters to keep up their own culture, as well as learning English during class time.

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