East European children at UK schools double in year
By Julie Henry, Education Correspondent
The number of eastern European children in English schools has almost doubled in just a year, figures reveal.
Almost 11,000 pupils from the new European Union accession states and other parts of eastern Europe are now in primary or secondary schools here, according to unpublished data from the schools census in January.
That is up from 6,563 last year and 4,762 in 2004.
But the sudden influx could be a significant underestimate because only a third of local authorities break down the ethnicity of their school population into precise categories that include “white eastern European”.
Rocketing pupil numbers suggest that migrants from countries such as Poland, Hungary and Lithuania are settling in Britain and bringing their families over, contradicting ministers' claims that workers are young and single and place few demands on public services.
Concerns about areas that have had a disproportionate influx of migrant workers have been raised at the highest level. David Bell, the permanent secretary at the Department for Education and Skills, asked local authorities in the east of England for evidence of “localised impacts” on schools and colleges.
The response from -Suffolk, seen by The Sunday Telegraph, shows that 467 new arrivals have been recorded in schools this year, a 45 per cent increase on 2003/04. Council officials said that they were receiving a steady flow of pupils right up to the summer holidays.
“Many of these children have come from Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, the Czech Republic and -Bulgaria,” the report said. “The parents of these children are working in a greater range of occupations, some in agriculture-related employment but also service industries and professions such as dentistry and pharmacy.”
Some of the families were in more isolated, rural parts of Suffolk where schools had no experience with children from overseas.
“Many pupils arrive in schools with little or no notification, which makes additional demands on school induction procedures,” the report said.
“Access to interpreters, with a range of 70 languages now spoken in the county, has not been easy and is prohibitively expensive.”
The report highlighted problems with children changing schools, visiting their home countries during term time and being ill-prepared to start school because they have never been in a classroom before. It also said that services had become aware of an increasing number of parents who had separated since their arrival in Suffolk.
The influx of children with additional needs comes against a backdrop of Government cuts in the funds available to teach English to new arrivals.
Per-pupil funding for language tuition in Suffolk is now 305 a year compared with 500 in 2002/03 (39 per cent down) and children can now receive the extra funding for only three years.
Documents from Coventry's education department show that the “significant increase in recent arrivals, particularly from the EC accession states” has resulted in the language teaching grant being spread more thinly, with funding falling from 400 to 300 per pupil, while other local authorities, such as Slough, Milton Keynes and Birmingham, have warned of the cost of coping with a sharp rise in migrants.
In a letter to John Reid, the Home Secretary, the Local Government Association said that up to 25 councils were having to provide services to new groups and that without extra Government funding, other money would have to be cut or council tax raised to pay for them.
Figures published last month revealed that 427,000 people from the eight accession states have registered to work in Britain since 2004 vastly outnumbering the 13,000 new arrivals that the Government predicted. Add to that the number of self-employed, and the total reaches about 600,000.
Fears have been raised about the extra workers and their families who may come to Britain when Bulgaria and Romania- join the EU in January.
Ministers are considering a points-based work permit scheme for them, with workers needing particular qualifications or filling specific gaps in the labour market. A similar system is already being introduced for non-EU immigrants.