British pupils pay the price for migrant influx
Children starting school this week will experience one of the most dramatic and worrying consequences of the biggest demographic upheaval in our history.
After the uncontrolled immigration of the Labour years, thousands of four- and five-year-olds are being packed into overspill ‘bulge’ classes, many housed in temporary schoolrooms or rented offices.
Meanwhile, record numbers are in oversized classes, with nearly 72,000 five-to-seven year-olds learning in groups of 31 or more – up from 31,265 in 2010.
Adding to the difficulties, of course, are the problems of handling growing numbers of pupils who speak little English.
Indeed, how can any teacher, faced with a class that speaks dozens of different native languages, hope to convey the basics to any pupil?
Truly, these youngsters, of every ethnic background, are victims of the taboo that for decades prevented politicians from challenging reckless migration policies, for fear of being branded as ‘racists’.
As the pressure intensifies – on schools, the NHS, housing, transport and jobs – a weekend poll found that 60 per cent believe immigration has damaged Britain.
Yet disturbingly, the latest figures show a surge in net migration to 176,000 last year, exposing the hollowness of the Government’s efforts to cut the net inflow below 100,000 by 2015.
And this is even before we throw open our borders to Romanians and Bulgarians next January.
Last week, when they rejected the plan to attack Syria, MPs spoke for the people. How much longer before they treat with the same seriousness the public’s concerns about migration’s threat to our well-being and national identity?
Mass immigration is testing Britons' tolerance
Cowardly politicians and bizarre EU rules have allowed too many immigrants to enter Britain
When does an immigrant stop being an immigrant? How about the lovely guy who runs the shop where I buy my newspapers, a benevolent giant who chats to elderly customers with infinite patience because he knows that this will be their only conversation of the day: is he still an immigrant?
Or what about my friend whose parents are Sri Lankan? Does a quarter of a century fighting breast cancer in this country put the seal on her Britishness? What do you reckon to an elderly aunt’s Zimbabwean carer doing the dirty, low-paid work natives don’t care for? Or the osteopath who fixed the repetitive strain injury that prevented me working – is she still Ugandan Asian or, 40 years after she got off a plane at Heathrow to see snow for the first time, is she now One of Us?
Then there are my children’s mixed-race friends. Count them: half-Malaysian, half-Polish, half-Jamaican, half-Catholic/half-Muslim, half-Japanese. And don’t get me started on Jews. The only thing to be said in favour of Adolf Hitler is that he gave this country some of its smartest, funniest and most productive people.
How do you think all of the above felt this week when they read the results of a poll by Lord Ashcroft that said a clear majority of people in Britain feel that immigration has been bad for the country? Sixty per cent said it brought “more disadvantages than advantages”. Only 17 per cent believed that immigration had been a good thing.
Cut to the opening scene of Simon Schama’s The Story of the Jews, which began on BBC Two on Sunday night. Sigmund Freud has been driven from Vienna by the Nazis at the age of 82, his life’s work demonised as “Jewish science”. Poor Freud was riddled with cancer, but he was still able to relish the new home he called “lovely, free, magnanimous England”.
What has happened in the past 70 years to turn that generous England into the grouchy, immigrant-resenting country revealed in the Ashcroft poll? On the same day the results were published, there was a headline in the Sun: “300 Foreign Thugs Can’t Be Deported”. It told the maddeningly familiar story of foreign criminals citing Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights to avoid deportation. A typical culprit is Sanel Sahbaz, a Bosnian living in Hertford, who has thanked the UK for its hospitality by a) committing common assault, b) theft, c) handling stolen goods, and, d) assaulting a police officer.
You and I could be forgiven for thinking that Mr Sahbaz had outstayed his welcome, but the law has other ideas. This nasty piece of work was allowed to stay in Britain because the European Court says he has “a right to a family life”, even if that “family” means children he never sees. The farcical ruling was made despite the fact that Home Secretary Theresa May warned back in February that Britain’s streets were being made more dangerous by immigration judges failing to kick out criminals.
Politicians have been in denial about the effects of mass immigration, calling anyone who expressed misgivings “racist”. Now that we have the highest birth rate since 1972, and the most popular boys’ name in the UK is Mohammed and its variants, they squabble over who is to blame for a third of councils having to lay on “bulge” reception classes.
It’s not only schools that are in crisis. Five years ago, a doctor who works at Charing Cross Hospital told me that thousands of foreigners were arriving at Waterloo station, jumping into a cab and presenting at the A&E department with non-emergency complaints. Staff had no choice but to admit them to the main hospital for costly, long-term treatments. Is that doctor racist for pointing out that health tourism and excessive immigration are putting the NHS under intolerable strain? As Sonny is from Mumbai, he’s a pretty strange kind of racist.
No wonder three-quarters of those questioned in the Ashcroft poll reckoned that a “dramatic reduction” in immigration would ease the pressure on public services. As if.
Tory promises to cut the numbers coming in are pretty hollow when the Lisbon Treaty, signed by Labour, prevents us from reducing intra-EU immigration. So we can keep out wonderful Australian teachers and Indian engineers, but 100,000 Romanians can come in and we have to send child benefit to their offspring back in Romania. No, madam, I’m not joking. We are the teat that Eastern Europe comes to suckle on. And you wonder why even the most easy-going Brit is fed up with immigration.
By far the best analysis of this mess is to be found in David Goodhart’s book, The British Dream: Successes and Failures of Post-War Immigration. Goodhart has had the guts to challenge the liberal consensus that held that unchecked immigration was simply marvellous, without ever explaining whose interests it was meant to serve. Like many of us who grew up in the monochrome Sixties, Goodhart says he is happy living in a vibrant, multi-racial society, “but I have come to believe that Britain has had too much immigration, too quickly, and much of it, especially for the least well-off, has not produced self-evident economic benefit”.
And so say all of us. With Britain’s borders reported to be in a “state of chaos” and criminals from inside the EU who are wanted in their own homeland able to arrive here unhindered, the case for renegotiating our relationship with Europe grows by the day. Getting back the ability to expel foreign criminals and to protect our schools and hospitals from collapse would be a start.
It is not immigration per se that decent Britons object to. It insults immigrants and their families settled here and contributing to our shared national life to say that it is. No, it is the indiscriminate and unsustainable mass influx permitted by a reckless and cowardly political class that has tested this nation’s tolerance to the limit. In doing so, they have eroded the very quality that was once the proudest boast of lovely, free, magnanimous England.