English is no longer the first language for the majority of pupils at three Dungannon educational establishments, it has emerged.
One pre-school nursery in the town has the highest percentage of so-called ‘newcomer pupils’ in Northern Ireland, at 79 percent, while a Dungannon primary school has the third highest at 58%.
A further nursery has 56% of its intake described as newcomers, suggesting that the stress on the local educational system is at one of the highest levels in Northern Ireland.
In the field of post-primary education, one Dungannon secondary school had the joint highest percentage of newcomer pupils in the North at 30%.
In total, 875 pupils attending school in the town are registered as having English as their second language.
The figures have been released by the Department of Education.
Newcomer children are pupils who do not have the necessary language skills to participate fully in the school curriculum and do not have a language in common with their teacher.
The new figures show that the number of schoolchildren without English as their first language increased more than seven-fold in Northern Ireland between 2001/02 and 2012/13.
In 2001/02 there were 1,366 newcomer children in NI’s schools – 0.5% of the total school population. At that time they were called ‘English as an Additional Language’ pupils.
The data for the 2012/13 school year, shows the newcomer pupils increasing to 9,656 – 3% of the total number of pupils. This ranges from 1.7% of pupils in post-primaries to 5.5% of our nursery pupils.
The full breakdown of the figures can be found at http://www.thedetail.tv/issues/304/newcomer-pupils/dramatic-increase-in-newcomer-pupils-attending-nis-schools.
A total of 761 schools had no newcomer pupils on their rolls – 418 primaries, 271 pre-schools, 44 post-primaries and 28 nurseries.
The 393 schools with newcomer pupils we have exact figures for (schools with more than five newcomer pupils) educated 8,818 of the total 9,656 newcomer children. Within this group, 59% attended Catholic maintained schools, 29% were pupils at controlled schools and 7% attended integrated schools.
Patrick Yu, Executive Director of The Northern Ireland Council for Ethnic Minorities (NICEM), said it was crucial that money allocated to schools for newcomer pupils is ring-fenced.
“There is additional money for schools with newcomer pupils to support their English proficiency through, for example, an additional teaching assistant but this money is never ring-fenced.
“We have also suggested to the Department of Education that there should be a small contingency fund to cover increases in newcomer pupil numbers in schools during any school year.”
Education Minister John O’Dowd said that his department’s policy – Every School a Good School – Supporting Newcomer Pupils – is designed to create a framework to welcome and value newcomer pupils and to ensure they have access to the full curriculum.
The Minister continued: “The Common Funding Scheme, which funds schools, also targets support to schools teaching newcomer children. In 2012/13 the support stood at over £8 million.
“Furthermore, my Department also provides an additional £900k earmarked funding to support newcomer pupils.
“This funding helps support the Inclusion and Diversity Service, which provides support and capacity building training to all grant-aided schools and special schools for newcomer pupils. The service is responsible for assessing priorities, monitoring and responding to areas of need.
“This work has ensured that we are supporting schools and teachers in educating newcomer children as their numbers have grown in recent years.”