One in Five Primary School Students Don’t Speak English as a First Language

File Photo: Matt Cardy/Getty Images

Nearly 20 per cent of students currently studying at primary schools in England do not have English as a first language, new figures reveal.

Statistics published by the Department for Education show that out of 3,572,108 students in state primary education in England, 693,815 have a first language “known or believed to be other than English” – or 19.4 per cent of the total. The represents a 0.7 per cent increase since January 2014.

The data, which was collected in January this year, also show that 15 per cent of state secondary school students speak a mother tongue that is not English.

Three in ten primary school students are also listed as being from Minority Ethnic backgrounds, with the largest minority group listed as ‘Asian’ – a classification that encompasses Indian, Pakistani and other South Asian backgrounds. Chinese and other Far Eastern backgrounds are listed separately.

The starkest figure is for London, where 48.6 per cent of primary school students do not speak English as a first language, rising to 55.8 per cent in inner London. The West Midlands also has an above-average figure, although at 21 per cent it is well below London.

This contrasts with North East England, where just 6.8 per cent of pupils speak a language other than English.

Last month, a school in Birmingham was revealed to have no students who speak English as a first language. The 859 students at Greet Primary School speak over 20 languages between them, including Bangali, Mirpuri, Urdu, Pashto, Punjabi, Hindko, and Arabic.

To cope with the challenge, every teacher is trained to teach English as an Additional Language (EAL), with many teachers also speaking some of the “community languages” of the students.