Saturday, December 11, 2010

England's migrant baby boom leaves schools 500,000 places short

England needs more than half a million extra primary school places before the end of the decade, ministers have admitted. By the Government’s own calculations, 543 new nursery and primary schools are needed within eight years.

The immigrant baby boom has put unprecedented strain on an education system that is already struggling under a surge in pupil numbers. Ministers described the shortfall as a ‘major issue’, and one campaign group claimed it could cost the taxpayer £40billion.

The predictions follow the chaos at the start of this school year which left hundreds of pupils without a place and thousands taught in makeshift classrooms.

The figures are released as the Department of Education is forced to slash its capital budget – the fund for the building of new schools – by 60 per cent by 2014/15. Statisticians put the trend down to the rising population of foreign-born women of childbearing age.

An official count yesterday showed the number of people living in Britain who were born abroad has more than doubled over 30 years. And birth rate figures show the UK population is now increasing in line with the post-war baby boom. It has risen by 10 per cent over the last 25 years and is expected to rise by 16 per cent over the next 25. Despite this, the Labour government closed more than 1,000 primary schools from 1999 while allowing record immigration.

Every region of England will see surging pupil numbers with London, the South East and the Midlands worst hit. The South West will be the least affected.

The Department of Education said the number of primary school pupils, currently 3.96million, will increase to 4.5million in 2018, an increase of 540,000. The number of nursery and primary schools needed to accommodate the surge must rise from today’s 3,986 to 4,529.

Meanwhile, Government spending on school buildings will fall from £7.6billion this year to £4.9billion next year and £3.4billion in 2014/2015. It has launched a capital spending review to assess where the reduced funding should be targeted. Schools minister Lord Hill said: ‘It’s clear that rising pupil numbers are a major issue facing the schools system. ‘We will continue to work very closely with local authorities, particularly in London, to ensure that we meet rising demand for school places effectively over coming years.

‘Our new Free School policy also has a part to play in allowing teachers, parents and charities to set up new schools in areas where there is a shortage of places.’

The immigration baby boom has resulted in doubling in number of pupils who do not speak English as their first language. Currently the figure stands at 16 per cent of students and is set to increase to 23 per cent in 2018. It is most marked in London where in some boroughs, such as Tower Hamlets, youngsters with a different mother tongue make up nearly 80 per cent of primary pupils.

School place shortages caused mayhem at the start of the school year in September. Councils in many parts of the country, including London and Birmingham, were massively oversubscribed. As term started Brent, in North West London, had 210 four-year-olds without a reception class place but only 24 vacancies. Officials in Newham had to put four classes in a church hall and hundreds of other schools used temporary buildings.

The Office for National Statistics population figures show an 11 per cent increase in immigration in Labour years. The foreign-born population includes around 1.3million from the Asian sub-continent and a similar number from Africa. People born in Ireland, the United States, Canada, Australia and New Zealand together total slightly under 900,000.

Campaign group MigrationWatch put the cost of additional school places at £40billion.


Australia: Immigrant woman thinks she shouldn't have to understand English

ONE of Australia's largest labour hire companies is being sued for racial discrimination, with claims that it demanded that a young Thai migrant with limited English complete a written health and safety exam, and then in effect dismissed her when she failed it.

Wan Phen Promlee says she was looking forward to returning to casual work as a warehouse picker and packer this year after time off with a wrist injury.

But, according to a claim she has filed in the Federal Magistrates Court, her employer, the labour hire firm Integrated, had other ideas. Ms Promlee says that when she returned she was initially told there was no work for her. Then, some weeks later, she received a call. The management of the warehouse company she had been sent to, Ceva Logistics, had been wondering where she was and asked Integrated to send her specifically.

But instead of returning to her duties, Ms Promlee, 26, was told to sit a written exam. "I went there and the woman said, 'You sit and watch the CD and answer the questions'," Ms Promlee said. "I couldn't understand. I just gave the paper back."

Ms Promlee says she was not allowed to have someone with her to read out questions and was not offered any translation assistance. She was not offered any more work.

Integrated said Ms Promlee had the questions read to her and was given the chance to answer them verbally. It said the health and safety test is mandatory for all employees when they register with the company.

But Ms Promlee was not required to sit the exam until six months later. She had already been given a safety orientation by Ceva Logistics, including instruction by a young woman who spoke her language.

"I learnt about how to lift a box without hurting yourself and what boxes are too heavy so you need to ask for help," Ms Promlee said. "I know how to be safe."

This was confirmed by employees at the Lidcombe factory. Integrated refused to comment yesterday.

Ms Promlee's lawyer, Giri Sivaraman, said the case was one of the more blatant examples of racial discrimination he had come across. "I just fail to understand how in modern Australia someone can be forced to sit a written test in English," Mr Sivaraman, from law firm Maurice Blackburn, said.

"I was really surprised at the lack of assistance for someone who really needed it. Taking into account the type of work - they should have done better. I think labour hire firms are scared of injured workers. Over the last 10 years I've repeatedly advised people who couldn't get work with labour hire companies because they were injured."

Ms Promlee is also suing Integrated for breaching the Disability Discrimination Act on the grounds that it had refused her request to undertake limited duties while she was recovering from her injury.


1 comment:

  1. Just what is Australia turning into? I actually can't believe this is happening - this is Australia so you MUST speak English!