Friday, October 18, 2013

Five British schools where not one pupil has English as their first language... and there are another 240 that are not far behind

Five primary schools in England don’t have a single pupil whose mother tongue is English.

There are also 240 schools where at least 90 per cent of children grew up learning another language.

Earlier this year, it was claimed that Gladstone Primary School in Peterborough was the only one without a single native English speaker, but four more have been found in figures obtained by Sky News.

Two schools, including Gladstone Primary, each had more than 400 pupils speaking a bewildering 20 languages.

Education experts yesterday said the influx of immigrant children often had a positive influence on British-born pupils because of their strong work ethic. But they warned teachers risked being swamped.

Professor Alan Smithers, an education expert at the University of Buckingham, said: ‘It is a growing phenomenon because of the large scale of immigration, which is putting a great deal of pressure on our school system.’

Chris McGovern, of the Campaign for Real Education, said: ‘Immigrant children bring a good work ethic to schools. The problem is they will have an impact on children who do speak English as a first  language because teachers’ time will be taken up helping them.

‘It can be up to a year before these children speak good English. But the other pupils don’t get that time back.’

The figures, from the Department for Education for the 2012-2013  academic year, showed Gladstone Primary had 441 pupils speaking languages including Punjabi, Urdu, Portuguese, Czech, Polish, Russian and several Russian dialects.

Teachers help pupils learn English by explaining everything they are doing so that children associate objects and actions with words.

Headteacher Christine Parker was not available for comment yesterday but has said: ‘More and more of the world is going bilingual. The culture at our school is not to see bilingualism as a difficulty.’

Peterborough City Council receives an extra £1.5million a year from the Department for Education to cover the cost of teaching children English.

Schools where 90 per cent of children speak English as a second language include nearby Beeches Primary where 23 languages were spoken by 592 pupils.

Sacred Heart School in Tipton, West Midlands, has 128 pupils, mostly with parents from Pakistan and Bangladesh. Headteacher Melanie Gee said: ‘Within a couple of weeks they are communicating in English.’

Ofsted inspections over the past six years showed one school had been rated ‘outstanding’ and two had maintained ‘good’ ratings in consecutive inspections.

Gladstone went from ‘inadequate’ to ‘good’.Westwood School in Oldham slipped from ‘good’ to ‘satisfactory’ between 2009 and last year, but 83 per cent of pupils reached required levels in English Key Stage 2 tests and 87 per cent in maths.

The figures at Gladstone were 74 per cent and 72 per cent respectively.

A DfE spokesman said: ‘Many schools successfully teach pupils whose first language is not English.’


What to do About America's Low-Skill Workforce

Some bad news for America, not on the political front this time, but on what corporate executives call human resources.

It's from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development's report on adult skills, based on 166,000 interviews in 24 economically advanced countries in 2011 and 2012.

The verdict on the United States: "weak in literacy, very poor in numeracy, but only slightly below average in problem-solving in technology-rich environments."

On literacy, just 12 percent of U.S. adults score at the top two levels, significantly lower than the 22 percent in largely monoethnic and culturally cohesive Japan and Finland. American average scores are below those in our Anglosphere cousins Australia, Canada and England and Northern Ireland.

One-sixth of Americans score at the bottom two levels, compared to 5 percent in Japan and Finland.

On numeracy the United States does even worse -- only 8 percent at the top levels and one-third in the lowest.

Americans do better at problem solving in tech-rich environments, which economist Tyler Cowen in his new book "Average Is Over" says will be of great economic value in the future.

One-third of Americans score at the top two levels, while one-third score at the bottom or lack such skills altogether.

That puts us just below the average of the countries tested. Finland, the Netherlands, Australia and Canada are well ahead.

The OECD report finds a wider range of skills in the U.S. than in other countries surveyed. Americans with only high school educations perform worse than their counterparts in all but one other nation.

And the report found that socioeconomic background is more strongly correlated with skills proficiency in this country.

In addition, there is the uncomfortable finding that disproportionate percentages of blacks and Hispanics have low skills.

Fully half of the Americans with the lowest level of literacy are Hispanic (presumably reflecting some immigrants' weak English) and another 20 percent are black.

This is probably true of other groups. In his 2012 book "Coming Apart," Charles Murray showed that the 30 percent of whites with the lowest education and income levels have low rates of family formation, little involvement in voluntary associations and high levels of substance abuse.

Most likely, those of any race or ethnic groups with divorced or single parents, or who are divorced or single parents themselves, tend to lag below national and international averages in literacy and numeracy.

Another disturbing finding of the OECD is that younger age cohorts in the U.S. do not seem to have skills as high as those in the cohort just below age 65.

All of this suggests that America's economic future may not be as bright as its past -- or that the current economic doldrums may turn out to be the new normal.

What to do? The OECD sensibly calls for better education and more adult skills training. In fact, many worthy attempts have been made and are being made to improve education around the country, and some have had positive results.

Even the Obama administration, despite its political debts to teacher unions, has pitched in to some extent.

In the meantime, the United States can do something about improving skill sets by changing its immigration laws to increase high-skill immigration.

Current immigration law has inadvertently resulted in a vast low-skill migration from Latin America and especially from Mexico. Unanticipated large numbers have used the family reunification provisions to come in legally, and large numbers have crossed the border illegally.

Congress can change that by cutting back on extended family reunification, improving border enforcement and requiring use of e-Verify or other status verification technology.

More important, Congress can vastly expand high-skill immigration. The Senate bill passed last spring goes some distance toward this, but not far enough.

The U.S. should take a lesson from its Anglosphere cousins Australia and Canada, which both have higher immigration proportionate to population and which both outscored the U.S. in literacy, numeracy and high-tech problem solving in the OECD survey.

Australia and Canada allocate large shares of their immigration flow by point systems, which give credit for educational achievement and marketable skills. They do not necessarily tie high-skill immigrants to a single petitioning employer, as H-1B visas do in the U.S.

Both countries are attracting high-skill immigrants, especially from China and India, and both have had better performing economies than the U.S. does.

Making a concerted effort to attract high-skill immigrants should be a no-brainer for America.


London Academy bans students from saying 'coz', 'ain't', 'like', 'innit' and 'bare' in crackdown on urban slang, claims MP

An academy in south London has banned popular slang words used by pupils in an effort to improve standards of English.  No longer will words and phrases such as 'you woz', 'bare' and 'innit' be tolerated in the corridors of Harris Academy in Upper Norwood, one of 27 Academies and Free Schools in and around London sponsored by the Harris Federation.

The school has put up signs with a list of 'banned words' including 'extra', 'innit' and 'like', as well as beginning sentences with 'basically' or ending them with 'yeah'.

Labour MP for Tottenham David Lammy defended the move, only lamenting that 'sup blood' was not included.

He said: 'I think this is a very good idea. Speaking slang is fine in a social setting but a school should be a professional, educational environment and if part of that means banning slang then that’s fine by me.

'Too often I see young people going into job interviews or writing cover letters without being able to use correct English. Any attempts to change that should be encouraged.

'Not many employers would tolerate their staff using words like ‘innit’ when speaking to customers or clients, so the school is right to try to discourage the use of this language in classrooms.

'Given the huge levels of youth unemployment we are experiencing under the current government, it is more important than ever that schools do what they can to prepare students for working life, and teaching good communication skills is a vital part of that.

'I think it is fairly obvious to most people that anyone who goes into a job interview with a good grasp of the English language will have an automatic advantage over someone that doesn’t.

'The issue here isn’t about slang itself, but about the context it is used in. Language is an important part of any culture, and young people will always have their own slang.

'But young people need versatility; using slang is fine in some situations, but the ability to also speak good English is absolutely crucial in any workplace, and it is something that every school should be teaching its students.'

'Those saying this is an attack on culture are completely missing that point: no one is saying slang is bad, but simply that it shouldn’t be the only way that one is capable of communicating.'

But the move was criticised by some online observers. Science blogger and academic Alice Bell tweeted: 'Saddo limited approach to language, innit', while Becky Middleton said: 'Wow. Good luck enforcing that.'

But children's book illustrator Siân Schiaparelli tweeted: 'Sensible to teach kids to speak appropriately in formal contexts. Handy for job interviews, innit.

'Everyone is acting as if it's like when Victorian kids were caned for speaking Welsh. Language could secure them a better future.'

Joannepsi added: 'Fantastic - I have conducted job interviews with applicants who pepper their speech with these words. They didn't get the job.'

Harris Academy was not available for comment tonight.
Mr Lammy said: 'I think it is fairly obvious to most people that anyone who goes into a job interview with a good grasp of the English language will have an automatic advantage over someone that doesn't'

Mr Lammy said: 'I think it is fairly obvious to most people that anyone who goes into a job interview with a good grasp of the English language will have an automatic advantage over someone that doesn't'

Last year an academy in Sheffield banned slang and 'text talk' over fears pupils' command of English would adversely affect them in job interviews.

Kathy August, deputy chief executive of the city's United Learning Trust which runs the city's Spring Academy, said: 'What we want to make sure of is that they are confident in using standard English. Slang doesn't really give the right impression of the person.

'Youngsters going to interviews for their first job need to make a good impression so that employers have confidence in them.  'It's not difficult to get youngster out of the habit of using slang.


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