The Birmingham primary school where pupils speak 27 different languages… and most don’t know English

October 8, 2014 | by | 0 Comments

Controlling classes at this multicultural primary school is a real test for teachers – because pupils speak a staggering 27 different languages between them.

Three-quarters of the 470 students at Bordesley Village Primary School in inner-city Birmingham do not recognise English as their first language.

And on the door to one classroom there is a sign declaring a big “welcome” to pupils – written in 12 different languages.

Multicultural: Bordesley Village Primary School in Birmingham where English is a second language

Multicultural: Bordesley Village Primary School in Birmingham where English is a second language



Pupils speak 27 different national dialects between them – from Somalian to Norwegian – with some needing to be taught English from scratch.

Headteacher Alayne Clowes said staff had been forced to work “incredibly hard” to improve pupils’ ability to speak English.

She added: “We get some pupils starting the school at the age of 10 who have no English or any previous formal education.

“Often their parents have never been educated and it’s a very new experience for them.

“We work really hard to support them pastorally, to make sure their start at school is a happy one.”

The head also said the school uses “interventions” to recognise children who need extra support, with some being taught in English as an additional language.

The school sits in the shadow of Birmingham City Football Club in an area declared among the country’s most deprived.

The number of pupils in care and receiving free school meals is well above the national average – with 58 per cent of its students having parents on benefits.

And incredibly, 40 per cent of the school’s 470 pupils – aged between three and 11 – move elsewhere before the end of the academic year.

Ms Clowes added: “We have a very transient population.

“There are lots of different reasons why they don’t stay, whether they move for cultural purposes or they are offered a place closer to where they live.”

The school was slammed by Ofsted inspectors in July this year when it was rated as three out of four – meaning it “requires improvement”.

Inspectors said teachers did not always encourage pupils to “extend their spoken contributions in lessons”.

They also said the “attainment in reading, writing and mathematics has remained well below national averages.”

The report adds: “The school is much larger than the average-sized primary school.

“The vast majority of the school population are from minority ethnic backgrounds. The largest groups are of Pakistani, Bangladeshi and Black African heritages.

“Three quarters of the pupils speak English as an additional language, which is well above the national average.

“The numbers of pupils arriving at the school and leaving the school are exceptionally high compared to other schools.

“Most of the new arrivals to the school speak little or no English when they start.”

But the school was praised for its curriculum which “prepares the pupils exceptionally well for their spiritual, moral, social and cultural development.”

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