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Last Updated: Friday, 29 September 2006, 16:11 GMT 17:11 UK
English is foreign to more pupils
More and more pupils have English as a second language
One in eight pupils at primary schools in England speaks English as a second language, official statistics show.

Government figures show 12.5% of primary pupils need extra assistance - up one percentage point on 2005.

In England's secondary schools, 9.5% of pupils do not have English as their first language, up half a percentage point on the previous year.

There are now 419,600 pupils in primary schools who speak English as a second language and 314,950 in secondaries.

The figures also show the number of primary pupils classified as coming from minority ethnic groups increased from 19.3% in 2005 to 20.6% in 2006.

A similar trend was noted in secondary schools - 15.9% of pupils in 2005 were from minority ethnic groups, increasing to 16.8% in 2006.

Suffolk's story

The county of Suffolk has seen the number of pupils who do not speak English as their first language increase by 45% in the past two years.

We try to make languages really valued in the classroom and get the other children involved for example by teaching them to count to five in Polish or by learning songs
Suffolk advisory teacher Anita Jennings
In January the annual schools audit revealed there were 15,000 non-English speakers in Suffolk schools and the council expects this figure to rise for January 2007.

Twenty-one languages, other than English, are spoken by Suffolk pupils, including Polish, Estonian, Malayalam and Icelandic.

The county council runs a minority ethnic and traveller achievement scheme in which specialist teachers offer advice and guidance for schools on how to help these children integrate into classroom life.

Advisory teacher Anita Jennings said the key was using lots of visual material and language.

"Teachers need to provide visual, concrete resources - pictures to look at, puppets," said Ms Jennings.

"And we try to make sure they [non-English speakers] work in mixed ability groups because they learn better if they are in a group setting."

Ms Jennings said "lots of talking" was very important, as was valuing the language skills that the pupils already have.

"We try to make languages really valued in the classroom and get the other children involved for example by teaching them to count to five in Polish or by learning songs."

Suffolk County Council is planning to write to the Education Secretary, Alan Johnson, to ask for more financial help to support the work being done in schools.

Research suggests that pupils in the early stages of fluency in English perform at very low levels in school assessments, while fully bilingual pupils perform significantly above the average of their English-only peers.

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