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Last Updated: Thursday, 1 November 2007, 13:08 GMT
'Requests for places every week'
By Hannah Goff
Education reporter, BBC News

Boy writing
The reading and writing skills of new arrivals can pose problems for schools
As local councils ask for emergency payments to cover the increased costs of immigration, we talk to a school which has seen its share of migrant children double in the last 10 years.

There are requests for as many as eight places for immigrant children a week at St Ethelbert's Catholic Primary School in Slough.

Head teacher Theresa Haggart says although not all children can be accommodated immediately, they will often go on a waiting list.

"We took in three children last week who were new to the country."

They were two youngsters from the Middle East and another who was on the waiting list who has siblings at the school.

Now some 17% of the school's children are the offspring of recent arrivals, compared to 8% a decade ago, she says.

And nearly two thirds of the pupils have English as an additional language, leading to 32 different languages being spoken by children at the school.

As such, the school is pretty used to ensuring the new arrivals get settled in and have their needs addressed as quickly as possible.

First, teachers assess their new pupils' skills in English and then they are assessed in their own language to check if they have any special educational needs.

The school has members of teaching staff who speak Polish and Malayalam (a language spoken in some parts of south India) who can help with some of the children.

There has to be something that enables the government to recognise increases
Theresa Haggart

"A lot of our children will come from other parts of the world and they speak fairly good English, but they just don't have the grammar or the vocabulary.

"So we do have a big focus on language.

"However, we have a lot of children with English as a first language who have language problems and vocabulary difficulties - so this approach benefits them as well."

She says Ofsted inspectors were surprised that, given the high proportion of children with English as an additional language, the school gets 80% of its children reaching the required standards in English at the end of Key Stage 2 or age 11.

The school also uses a controversial intensive synthetic phonics programme where all children are taken out of their age-groups for a period every morning and taught in groups according to their reading ability.

But Mrs Haggart says even though most of her new arrivals come with a great willingness to learn, the high numbers can cause the school problems.

'Old figures'

The local authority does what it can to assist, she says, by funding special projects and extra teaching assistants.

But it can only pass on the funds it is given by central government.

The problem is that Slough's allocations are often based on information about the population that is out of date.

The Local Government Association said official statistics at a local level needed to be improved, suggesting school census data and GP registrations should be used.

"If the funding is based on old figures then the funding is lower than it needs to be.

"There needs to be something where the figures are based on the actual situation - there has to be something that enables the government to recognise increases," says Mrs Haggart.

"Schools take this on board as being all part of just another day. We have to deal with it even if we haven't got the funding to do it.

"So ultimately it can restrict what we can do," she adds.



SEE ALSO
Councils seek more migrant funds
01 Nov 07 |  UK Politics

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