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Third of Kingston pupils speak English as their second language
Nearly a third of children at Kingston schools do not speak English as their first language, according to latest figures.
A total of 113 languages were spoken by 6,983 children at primary and secondary schools in the borough, or 30 per cent of the 23,000 pupils in total.
St Joseph’s in Kingston had the most foreign-speaking pupils, with 64 per cent of youngsters not having English as their first language, according to school census figures from January this year.
An Ofsted report in 2010 rated the school as good, but said variations in English standards in some classes were partly due to pupils who were new to the language.
Others schools with more than 60 per cent of English second language pupils included Burlington Infants and Coombe Hill Infants, both in New Malden.
Both schools were rated outstanding in their last Ofsted report.
St Joseph’s headteacher Merryl Roberson said strong SAT results and a recent Ofsted inspection confirmed standards at the school were high.
She said different languages and cultures enriched learning and pointed to the British Council International school award in 2009 as recognition of the school’s hard work.
She said: “We have comprehensive programmes that successfully support every new pupil and our staff provide for every child’s individual learning needs.”
Former governor of St Joseph’s Sandra Coombs helps at the school by reading with pupils having trouble.
Mrs Coombs, who was a labour candidate in the St Marks ward at the most recent local election, said some children arrived without any English language skills.
She said: “Some pupils do not speak any English but these children get ongoing help throughout their time at the school.
“I am not sure what effect that has on other pupils but I know that mixing with other cultures helps build strong social cohesion, not just at school but in society as well.”
The most common language apart from English was Tamil with 1,106 pupils, followed by Urdu with 676 and Korean at 625.
Others included Arabic (534), Polish (294), Punjabi (229), French (219), Chinese (216) and Portuguese (211), a freedom of information request has revealed.
Councillor Patricia Bamford, head of schools in Kingston, denied extra support for foreign students had a negative effect on others.
She said: “I would not say it is not a concern, but our headteachers and governors are experienced at allocating support in order to give the best possible education to all pupils.”