One in five children in schools across Sheffield do not speak English as their first language, The Star can reveal today.
Figures obtained through The Star’s Your Right To Know campaign show 14,572 children in primary and secondary schools have English as an additional language – almost 20 per cent of city schoolchildren.
More than 120 different languages are listed as the mother tongue for children, according to Sheffield Council’s latest schools census.
Languages range from English, Chinese and Arabic to lesser known ones such as Ewe – spoken in southeastern Ghana and southern Togo – and Kannada – the official language of the southern Indian state of Karnataka.
After English, which is the first language of 35,191 children in nursery and primary schools and 24,427 youngsters in secondary schools, the most common language is spoken is Arabic – totalling 2,297 pupils.
A total on 2,097 pupils listed Panjabi as their first language, 2,075 gave Urdu, 1,1749 said Slovak and 1,085 children speak Somali.
The council stressed that it does not necessarily mean that children who have English as an additional language cannot speak fluent English.
Coun Jackie Drayton, Sheffield Council’s cabinet member for children, young people and families, said: “I am proud to live in a city which is home to many people from across the world who have brought with them their rich cultures and language, all of which enriches our great city.
“For our children, this makes for a rich learning experience for them to be able to see and experience first-hand the world around them and Sheffield’s place in it.
“Our priority for children, young people and families is to help them achieve their full potential, by raising expectations, attainment and enabling enriching experiences and this goes for all children in our city, whatever their background.
“We work very closely with our schools to deliver the best education for our children and this includes targeted work with schools which deliver English as an Additional Language tuition. Some schools also run after school English as an Additional Language courses for adult learners in local communities, all of which goes to help children and young people with learning.”
She added there are more than 120 languages spoken in Sheffield, making it one of the most diverse cities in the country.
They are all supported by the council-backed Sheffield Languages service, which promotes language learning and supports the languages of the city’s diverse communities.