A million children 'don't speak English as first language'

In fact, according to government statistics, the most common languages spoken by youngsters at home in Britain are Punjabi, Bengali and Urdu. Chinese and Polish are also spoken frequently.

The figures have revealed that one in seven pupils in primary, secondary and special schools in England talks in a foreign language at home, and a quarter in primary schools are classified as being of ethnic minority origin.

The statistics showed that a total of 905,610 pupils in schools in England do not use English as their first language. The proportion was highest in primary schools, where one in six pupils aged 11 and under did not have English as their first language, a total of 518,020 overall.

In secondary schools, about one in eight fell into the category, a total of 378,210, while one in 10 special school pupils, 9,380 in all, does not have English as a first language, the 'Daily Express' reported.

The figures also show that 25.5 per cent of primary school pupils are from ethnic minority backgrounds -- a one per cent increase on 2009 -- and 21.4 per cent of pupils in secondary schools, compared with 11.1 per cent last year.

Nick Seaton of the Campaign for Real Education called the data "disturbing".
He said: "It must make it extremely difficult for schools to operate as they should. This suggests the balance between youngsters from immigrant families and those from indigenous backgrounds is going astray."

However, a spokesman for the Department for Education said: "Just because English is their second language doesn't necessarily mean they cannot speak it well. Many of those do not progress as quickly as those with English as their first language, but that gap has narrowed over the last few years."

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