School struggles to cope with influx of migrant families

PUBLISHED: 17:13 05 November 2007 | UPDATED: 20:12 01 June 2010

Thomas Clarkson Community College

Thomas Clarkson Community College

A WISBECH school has been forced to turn its caretaker s house into a learning centre to cope with demands for teaching English to children of migrant families. Thomas Clarkson Community College has also employed a specialist EAL teacher at a cost of tens

A WISBECH school has been forced to turn its caretaker's house into a learning centre to cope with demands for teaching English to children of migrant families.

Thomas Clarkson Community College has also employed a specialist EAL teacher at a cost of tens of thousands of pounds a year. But head teacher John Bennett says he is still not able to do as much as he would like.

"However hard we work, we haven't got enough staff to support all those individual youngsters in their classes," he said. "It makes it harder for those youngsters, although we do our best."

Wisbech is a town which has changed more than most and at Thomas Clarkson Mr Bennett says the school is under pressure. Seventeen languages are spoken by pupils, and while Lithuanian and Portuguese are most common, Kurdish, Russian, Guajarati and Persian are among the others spoken. He stresses that the new pupils are welcome but says the school needs more resources.

He said: "Two to three years ago we had no children with English as an additional language (EAL). Today we have 106 in a school of 1,400. We are very pleased to have them here but it has been difficult to accommodate the youngsters, because we have been unable to find people with skills in all those languages."

Mr Bennett added that the school was applying for every possible grant but this would not cover the cost of what it was doing.

"I have to take money away from elsewhere. I don't think the government has thought this through," he said.

His comments come in the wake of a report from the Local Government Association, which found that many schools have difficulty coping with frequently changing populations from a wide range of cultural backgrounds.

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