English is a second language for one in seven school pupils

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One in seven primary school pupils does not speak English as a first language.

The number who normally speak a foreign language rose last year to 565,888 - 14.3 per cent of the total.

In some areas, English is a foreign language to more than 70 per cent of four to 11-year-olds, putting enormous pressure on teaching staff. And there are ten schools without a single pupil who has English as a first language, new figures show.

Teachers say large concentrations of children with a poor grasp of English can lead to some schools being unfairly condemned by inspectors.

Parliamentary questions have revealed that in 2004, 452,388 primary school children spoke English as a second language. By last year this figure had increased by 113,500, a rise of almost exactly 25 per cent.

In secondary schools, the proportion of pupils who do not have English as their native language has increased from 8.8 per cent in 2004 to 10.6 per cent last year.

"The soaring figures reflect the fact that immigration into the UK is now five times higher than when Labour came to power in 1997. Net immigration has increased from 48,000 that year to 237,000 in 2007”

The soaring figures reflect the fact that immigration into the UK is now five times higher than when Labour came to power in 1997. Net immigration has increased from 48,000 that year to 237,000 in 2007.

Shadow immigration minister Damian Green said the figures suggest that almost a million primary and secondary pupils now speak English as a second language.

He said: 'These shocking figures illustrate how difficult life is for many teachers because of the Government's long-term failure to control immigration.

'They show why we badly need an annual limit on immigration.

'Australia has a limit which it has just reduced because of the recession - Britain should be able to do the same thing.

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

'Whether or not they can speak English, everyone suffers when it's more difficult for teachers in the classroom.

'This is also a huge pressure on local authorities trying to cope with uncontrolled immigration.'

Mick Brookes, the general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, said: 'Where you have a child or a group of children with no English at all admitted to a school, the school needs to create some facility for translation, just in terms of the quality of their education . 

'Children may well come with languages which are not commonly dealt with in this country. 

'We are now hearing head teachers complaining that they and their schools are being unfairly judged because they have a large number of children with English as a second language. 

'Schools are bending over backwards to accommodate these children and then Ofsted comes in and gives them a kicking for poor overall standards. 

'But as well as being a challenge to schools, there are real success stories. 

'In my own experience, a child came from Estonia with very broken English and two years later she was winning the school spelling competition.' 

More and more local authorities are now insisting they need more money to help cater for the dozens of languages spoken in some schools. 

In the London borough of Tower Hamlets, only 23 per cent of pupils speak English as their first language. 

At one school, Nelson Primary in East London, three-quarters of pupils are not native English speakers and some 56 different languages are spoken. 

Headmaster Tim Benson said his teachers have to use many more hand gestures than usual, as well as drawing pictures. 

Teaching assistants fluent in particular languages are brought in to help small groups of children through their lessons.

Despite his problems, Mr Benson says schools in areas like his are better equipped than many trying to deal with newer immigrant populations. 

Schools in shire counties 'really struggle' and desperately need more cash, he warned. 

'In places like Lincolnshire and Suffolk this is all new to them and the mindset is not there to provide for these children. They haven't got the staff and they haven't got the funding.' 

Schools minister Jim Knight has admitted that 'undoubtedly there can be problems' for schools with large numbers of non-English speakers. 

Communities Secretary Hazel Blears will tomorrow call for an 'honest debate' about the pressures that migration can put on local public services. 

She will announce that anyone from outside the EU applying for a student or work visa will be required to pay a special tax levied on migrants.  continues here

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