Tuesday, December 02, 2014

£244MILLION - That's the staggering sum taxpayers pay each year to help children in British schools who cannot speak English

Teaching children who come from immigrant families to speak English is costing the taxpayer more than £244 million a year.

The extraordinary level of funding allocated to deal with the language problem in schools emerged just days after immigration from the European Union was revealed to have reached a record high.

Department for Education figures for the current school year suggest the costs have risen by about £40 million in just three years – up from £204 million in 2011.

The money is currently allocated to schools by local authorities on the basis of the number of pupils they have with English ‘as an additional language’, with primaries in England getting £190 million in 2014-15 and secondaries £54 million.

Most of the Government’s vast expenditure goes on teachers who specialise in teaching English to foreign children, bilingual teaching assistants – and even interpreters for parents’ evenings. And increasing numbers of teachers are enrolling on courses to learn how to teach English as a foreign language, often at their own expense.

Some schools are having to offer separate classes for children who have recently arrived from abroad, which they have to attend in order to gain essential skills in oral and written English. Only later will they join classes containing fluent English-speaking pupils.

However, native English-speaking pupils are often losing out, with more time and resources allocated to pupils from immigrant families in the classroom.

Professor Alan Smithers, the director of the Centre for Education and Employment Research at Buckingham University, said: ‘The teaching of English to pupils from abroad is taking up a large chunk of money at a time when expenditure on education is severely constrained, placing extra stress on our schools.’

He added: ‘This is of great concern to parents.  ‘I know of parents who are so concerned about the impact of large numbers of pupils from abroad on the education of their own children that they have taken steps to move them to schools where they can concentrate on their studies without the distraction of non-native speakers.’

Recent figures revealed that the number of schoolchildren with English as a second language has leapt by a third in just five years, with more than 1.1 million now using another language in the home.

And last year there were 240 schools where 90 per cent or more of pupils did not have English as their native tongue. There were also five schools where not a single child grew up learning English as their first language.

The fastest-growing languages spoken by foreign-born pupils are those from Eastern Europe. Between 2008 and 2013, the number of Eastern European pupils in England who do not speak English at home almost tripled from just over 44,000 to more than 123,000.

The Romanian language recorded the fastest growth – 527 per cent over five years. Latvian was second, with a rise of 414 per cent, followed by Hungarian with an increase of 359 per cent and Bulgarian with a 255 per cent rise.

Polish increased by 136 per cent, but had the greatest number of speakers at 63,275. School census figures from the Department of Education show that the number of white pupils who are not British, Irish or Roma – a group who are thought to consist largely of Eastern Europeans – has risen by 72,000 between 2010 and this year, when the figure was 313,130.

Schools are already struggling to cope with the demand for places fuelled by a rising birth rate, with many having to teach their pupils in temporary classrooms or build costly extensions.

Official estimates suggest that an extra one million school places will be needed over the next decade.

The Government is already having to spend £5 billion by 2015 on increasing places to help ease the crisis.

As well as the number of families migrating to Britain, further pressure is created by the high birth rate among those families once they have moved, the Office for National Statistics has revealed.

Romanian women on average will have 2.93 children here, compared with British women who have 1.84 children on average.

A Department for Education spokesman explained that because of a change in the funding formula two years ago, money for teaching non-native English speakers is no longer strictly ring-fenced, so councils have more choice about how they are going to spend it.

But experts said that some schools had been forced to find additional money from their own budgets to cope with spiralling demands, even helping children born in Britain whose migrant families do not speak English at home.

Teaching unions said it was crucial that new arrivals in Britain learned English as quickly as possible.

A National Association of Head Teachers spokesman said: ‘Gaining a rapid understanding of English is vital to help those children integrate in the classroom so that they can learn along with their peers.

‘Children who do have English as their first language are also well served by this approach because it means that their learning isn’t compromised by classmates who are struggling long-term with the language barrier.’

Earlier this month, Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith said that the character of Britain’s schools was being altered by the influx of migrant children who did not speak English.

During a radio interview, Mr Duncan Smith said that the new arrivals in many communities ‘literally change the schooling because so many people arrive not speaking English’.


The moral crusade against pro-life students

Free speech on UK university campuses is not under attack – it’s on life support. Layer upon layer of university and student-union policymaking has, effectively, declared open season on anyone who dares stray from the ever-shrinking terrain of respectable ideas. Building on the legacy of the National Union of Students’ (NUS) anti-racist No Platform policy that has held tenure on student-union statutes for over three decades, a raft of new policies has taken censorship to its next logical step – the policing of anything deemed to be that little bit offensive. It’s in this climate that campus censorship has become, well, kinda silly. The harsh words once reserved for the far right are now aimed at rugby lads, pop singers and comedians whose supposedly corrosive – see un-PC – means of expressing themselves is deemed a direct threat to student safety.

The recent flurry of campus bans on Page 3, ‘Blurred Lines’, greetings cards, Dapper Laughs, UKIP, Julie Bindel, spaghetti monsters and Jesus & Mo has certainly made calling out censorship easier. But it has also made it harder to convince those outside the student-politics bubble – both students themselves and the public at large – of the seriousness of what’s going on. While one may forthrightly make the case that any form of censorship on campus diminishes students and undermines the university as a unique place in which one can say the unsayable and think the unthinkable, it’s often shrugged off and ignored by the wider student community. Let student politicos eat gluten-free cake, posture against Robin Thicke and get on with it, they say: students’ unions have gotten so cartoonishly estranged from reality that we should leave them to it and enjoy the odd laugh at their expense.

However, news from Cardiff University this week shows the cost of such complacency. Tomorrow, at Cardiff University Students’ Union’s annual general meeting (AGM), the union will vote on adopting a pro-choice policy that would in essence outlaw pro-life organisations on campus. In one of those dry union meetings no one ever goes to – presumably because it’s full of the sort of bureaucrats now attracted to SU office – a political viewpoint, held by a significant portion of the campus, could be all-but outlawed.

Unfortunately, this isn’t the first time the pro-life view has faced intolerance and censorship on campus. Last week, a discussion on abortion at Oxford, involving spiked editor Brendan O’Neill and Telegraph writer Tim Stanley, was cancelled after student campaigners threatened to disrupt it. The shock and outrage sparked on Twitter and among the commentariat was vital, but a little overdue. Because while the sillier end of censorship has continued to grab the headlines, a growing campaign against pro-life students has been bubbling away on campuses across the country.

In September, the Dundee University Students’ Association (DUSA) banned the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children (SPUC) from the union’s freshers’ fair, despite SPUC having had a stall at the fair for the previous eight years. In June, the Oxford University Students’ Union (OUSA) banned the pro-life charity LIFE from advertising in the union. University College London Students’ Union (UCLU) mandated in 2012 that any pro-life event must feature a pro-choice speaker. And the list goes on…

Each of these flagrant acts of censorship were met with resistance from the far more moderate pro-life and religious groups who operate on campus – all strongly arguing for their right to free speech on campus. However, up to now, these groups have found it difficult to galvanise support from those who aren’t pro-life.

However, in Cardiff, this seems to be changing. A coalition of students, including members of pro-life, Christian, Islamic, LGBT and atheist groups, have joined together under the banner of Keep Cardiff Uni Free to campaign against the pro-choice motion. Madeleine Page, talking to spiked on behalf of the group, insists this is not about protecting the rights of pro-life students only, but of all students. ‘We believe that students should have the right to express their sincerely held beliefs, within the law. This motion demonstrably violates that principle’, she says.

The history of this motion is a textbook example of how belligerent and anti-democratic students’ unions have become. The motion was first put before the Cardiff student senate in April, but it failed to pass because the attendance to the meeting was not sufficient to meet quorum. In the four-hour meeting that followed, officials of the student senate twice tried to block the motion from going to an AGM, and thus an open student vote.

Now, it’s back on the agenda, and the stipulations of it are deeply troubling. Not only would it prevent SU-affiliated societies from taking part in ‘anti-choice protests outside of abortion clinics and under the banner of the students’ unions’, but it insists that any literature disseminated on campus concerning abortion and contraception must be ‘unbiased’, ‘not shame those who choose to have abortions’, and, stranger still, be ‘academically referenced’. (So, while SU politicos will still be free to churn out their shrill, incoherent ideas as much as they like, their opponents in pro-life societies will have to come armed with footnotes.)

But beneath the woolly wording is a veritable blank cheque to regulate pro-life students out of existence. And, thankfully, this is an affront to liberty that, Page tells me, much of the campus has recognised: ‘From the conversations we’ve all had around campus, the majority student opinion is against this motion on the grounds that it is a clear violation of free speech. We just hope that the audience at the AGM will reflect that!’

She continues: ‘Free speech is vital to any healthy society. But university is the place where students are exposed, often for the first time, to a whole new world of ideas and opportunities. We believe we should respect their right to listen to the arguments and decide for themselves what they think on abortion.’

Herein lies the crucial point. Campus censorship, aside from being an affront to the freedom and resilience of students, holds back the real discussions that need to be had – in this case, on women’s rights with regards to abortion. spiked is firmly pro-choice, and for those who reckon they have the sufficient mental resilience to find out why, you can read the speech Brendan O’Neill was due to give at Oxford here. But, as a pro-choice magazine, we want to explain why we believe we’re right, in the hopes of pushing the conversation forward.

So, to the students of Cardiff, whether you’re pro-life, pro-choice, or undecided, make sure you attend tomorrow’s AGM and vote down this motion. It’s time students everywhere brought an end to censorship – both the silly and the serious – and got on with talking about and tackling the big questions.


Time to give British school inspectorate the boot

If you want proof that Ofsted has no educational credibility, then look no further than its recent reports on the Sir John Cass secondary school in East London and the Middle Rasen primary school in Lincolnshire. In both cases, Ofsted showed itself to be illogical, illiberal and worse than useless for teachers.

In the case of Sir John Cass, the fact that the school has been rated ‘outstanding’ in its past two inspections, and is generally acknowledged to be one of the most improved inner-city schools in England, counts for little in the safeguarding-obsessed eyes of Ofsted. The school officially failed to meet certain ‘leadership and management’ criteria. In fact, it failed because it allowed sixth formers to set up an Islamic Society and a related YouTube channel. I would have thought that this was an example of students showing initiative and developing wider interests. Not according to Ofsted. Sir John Cass was accused of failing to monitor its own pupils. As a result, the school is to be placed in special measures.

Local headteachers are on record as saying Ofsted’s judgement is too harsh. This is probably a generous assessment, but it certainly beats the response of Tower Hamlets director of education, Robert McCulloch-Graham: ‘As is common practice, we will work with the leadership of this school to address any issues identified by Ofsted.’

Really? Even if these issues are not education-related? Even if Ofsted’s decision is likely to engender mistrust among staff, pupils and parents? Is this man a director of education or an Ofsted apparatchik?

While Sir John Cass has been punished for not promoting British values enough, Middle Rasen primary school in Lincolnshire has been denied outstanding status for being too British. The Ofsted report’s main complaint is that the school fails ‘to extend pupils’ understanding of the cultural diversity of modern British society by creating opportunities for them to have firsthand interaction with their counterparts from different backgrounds beyond the immediate vicinity’. As if to exemplify this confusion, Ofsted demands Middle Rasen teach ‘British values’ in the very same breath as it criticises the school for reflecting the social make-up of the British community within which it is located.

It is outrageous that an institution as defunct and irrational as Ofsted should be judging education in this way. The only real issue the Sir John Cass and Middle Rasen reports raise is why Ofsted still exists. In its Middle Rasen report, Ofsted writes: ‘All schools must teach pupils about fundamental British values, including mutual respect and tolerance of those with different faiths and beliefs. That way they will be prepared for the future wherever they go.’

In this, Ofsted reveals itself to be thoroughly disingenuous. There is no social consensus over British values. So what is there to teach students other than some arbitrary, ill-defined values dreamt up by academics and politicians? When it comes to values, Ofsted has no legitimate authority to say what schools ‘must’ teach. Parents, not teachers, are best placed to judge whether the values of a school are acceptable for their children.

In urging schools to focus on values and aims rather than providing a curriculum based on knowledge, Ofsted reveals that it prefers indoctrination to education. It’s time to pass our judgement on Ofsted: it’s beyond special measures; it’s time to shut it down.


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