17:12 Monday 16th January 2012
Drive BBC Radio Cambridgeshire
CHRIS MANN: As you’ve just heard in the news, it looks like schools in Peterborough will be given money to help with the growing number of pupils who don’t have English as the first language. The city and its surrounding areas has become a mecca for many Pakistani families, and a growing number of Eastern European families, looking to settle down. It’s made the city one of the most multi-cultural in East Anglia, but has led to pressures in the classroom, with many teachers unavailable to offer extra help to children. So, how badly is this money required? Well joining me now is John Holdich, the Cabinet Member for Schools at Peterborough City Council. John, good evening to you.
JOHN HOLDICH: Good evening.
CHRIS MANN: So this is something you’ve been asking for for a while.
JOHN HOLDICH: Yes. Full marks to Stewart on this. Two or three years ago he criticised the City Council for schools, which offended a lot of our schools, for lower attainment, and we asked him to come in and look at our figures.
CHRIS MANN: We’re talking about Stewart Jackson here, the MP for Peterborough.
JOHN HOLDICH: We’re talking about Stewart Jackson, yes. And immediately he saw the problem. It wasn’t an excuse, it was a problem, or a challenge. And he took it up for us. And we’ve had Nick Gibb down here, at his request, and talked to Nick Gibb. And it looks today, we haven’t got any money, but it looks as if we do have the promise of some.
CHRIS MANN: So what difference will this make? What’ll it be used for exactly?
JOHN HOLDICH: Well just to give you an idea of the problem, in primary schools, in 2008, 24% of our school population were English as another language. It’s risen to 30.7%, where the national average is 16%. And equally in secondary schools, we’ve risen to 22%, where the national average is 12%. Last year, from January to October, we had 581 new arrivals in this city, of which 570 were from overseas, and most of those went into our primary population. And that’s equivalent to two primary schools, to put it into perspective.
CHRIS MANN: So what will the money be used for? And how much are you getting?
JOHN HOLDICH: Well we don’t know. I think today from what I’m told Mr Gove has made a promise that we will get some money. But we haven’t been told how much. So it’s difficult to say precisely what the money will be for, but it’s not necessarily the problem of these young people, we’ve got 94 different languages being spoken in our schools. Some schools have got 30 plus languages in their school. It’s not that problem, a lot of schools welcome the diversity. It’s the turnover that causes the problem. One school told me the other day they had 360 children from 4 to 11, and 350 children went in, and only 50 of the same children came out. So you’ve got a huge turnover. And that is the problem.
CHRIS MANN: Ok. Can I just press you on one thing, what exactly will the money be sued for? Do you get interpreters in, do you get extra teachers in? What do you do?
JOHN HOLDICH: Well I think it will certainly be used, and the schools would welcome it, into extra helping in the classroom. Because I think we could up our attainment levels if we could just take the young people out and give them special tuition in English. Because ..
CHRIS MANN: Presumably the problem isn’t just affecting those who are coming in, the new arrivals, who’s education is clearly suffering, but those who are already in the schools, the knock-on effect is they too aren’t getting the attention the need because so many resources are taken up with the newcomers.
JOHN HOLDICH: I think the schools are very careful to not let that happen. But obviously they do need extra help, and as the numbers increase, extra classroom help would stop that happening.
CHRIS MANN: John Holdich, thank you so much for joining us. The Cabinet member for Schools at Peterbroough City Council, on that breaking news that schools in Peterborough will be given extra money to help with the growing number of pupils who don’t have English as their first language.