Although there are nearly 100 schools where less than one in 20 pupils has English as their mother tongue, it’s believed that Gladstone Primary school in Peterborough is the first to have none at all, The Telegraph reports.
Of its 440 pupils, 358 are from the Punjab, 23 from Afghanistan, 15 from Lithuania, 11 from Latvia – and there are 16 other nationalities. Despite this, this most multicultural of schools has done well in its Ofsted reports, with a ‘good’ score just a year after it was given an ‘inadequate’ rating.
Headteacher Christine Parker doesn’t see the school’s extreme multiculturalism as a problem: “More and more of the world is going bilingual,” she said, “The culture at our school is not to see bilingualism as a difficulty.” Teachers try to make up for the lack of native English by mixing pupils with other children from a nearby school in a ‘buddy’ system. They also provide running commentaries on what they’re doing, so pupils associate actions and objects with the words that describe them.
Ms Parker said that children only struggle in reception class if their parents have taught them a little English alongside their own language, and that it is better for them to have no English at all: “Sometimes parents have tried to help their children learn English but their own isn’t too good. The outcome is the children aren’t fluent in their own language. If they haven’t got a good foundation [in their own language] it can be very difficult to build on that.”
Have you taught in a school where the majority of pupils don’t have English as their first language? Do you agree that it can be an advantage?