A school in Leeds, where native English speakers are in the minority, is to start teaching English as a foreign language to all its pupils.
City of Leeds School has students from around 55 nations – one of the largest groups being Czech Roma children.
Head teacher Georgiana Sale explained to Sky News why she had taken the decision: “We’re doing these as extra for all the children but obviously the needs of the range of children are going to be different.
“I do have native English speakers here but the English they speak isn’t formal enough for the requirements of the new GCSE examinations that are coming in … those are going to be a lot stricter on grammar, punctuation, spelling across the great range of subjects – it’s not just for English.”
Ms Sale said children would get extra English lessons according to their needs.
“The majority I have here do have English as an additional language … some of them are very newly arrived in the country and have no English at all. So obviously we will be teaching English language just as you might French or German in other schools.”
She rejected comments by Andrew Carter, the Tory opposition leader of Leeds City Council, who questioned how teaching the children English as a foreign language would benefit the community as a whole, saying it was “throwing the towel in”.
Ms Sale said: “I don’t honestly understand his comment. If I’ve got children who don’t speak English or their English is very poor, I need to make their English better, don’t I?
“How can that not help them get employment or places at the college?
“I’m wanting all the children to get the best possible results to go to college with. I’m wanting my very brightest children to get As and A*s by improving their English … and that is going to help them get places at colleges and it’s going to give the local jobs market here articulate and literate people.”
Official figures analysed by Sky News last autumn showed there were 240 schools in England where English was not the first language for more than 90% of students.
And there were five primary schools where not a single pupil was a native English speaker.