Sheffield schools 'need more funding' to deal with 1,500 per cent increase in Roma children

Sheffield needs more Government funding to deal with a 1,500 per cent increase in Roma and Eastern European children in the city putting pressure on schools.

By The Newsroom
Tuesday, 6th December 2016, 12:12 pm
Updated Tuesday, 6th December 2016, 2:50 pm
A police officer speaks to a child in Page Hall
A police officer speaks to a child in Page Hall

Sheffield Council has said while a recent Ofsted examination of the situation found ‘no negative impacts’ on other pupils’ achievement from the increase, more financial support is required in the city to deal with the situation.

It comes after a report by Dame Louise Casey said the number of Roma and other Eastern European children going to Sheffield schools has increased from 150 to 2,500 in five years, largely in the Page Hall area.

Her report said the 'sudden growth' in the Roma community in Sheffield - more than half of whom are aged under 17 - has been putting pressure on local schools.

Dame Louise said: "A head teacher told us that educational attainment gaps against the Sheffield average are huge, with only 8.9 per cent of Roma children reading and 3.5 per cent writing at Key Stage 1, compared to 80.1 per cent reading and 70.3 per cent writing among the general population."

"Community tensions are also arising over alleged practices such as fly tipping and benefit fraud."

In response, Councillor Jackie Drayton, Sheffield Council’s cabinet member for children, young people and families, said: “We have been working in partnership with schools across the city to support them with the increase of Roma pupils, and extra English lessons have been provided for children and their families to help them integrate into school life.

“Ofsted recently looked at what Sheffield schools are doing in this situation. They concluded that while there are challenges for schools, it found examples of good practice and that there were no negative impacts on other pupils’ attainment within schools.

“But we know there is always more to do and that additional funding is needed. We continue to press the Government on this.”

It comes after an Ofsted report in December 2014 said affected schools in Sheffield had 'no adverse effect on the achievement of other pupils already settled in their schools' but noted they had found it difficult to get available funding for new pupils quickly enough and there was a shortage of expert staff to provide effective support to Roma pupils.

It said: "Few spoke any English when they arrived at school in England. By 2014, one Sheffield secondary school had 174 Roma pupils (21 per cent of its roll) compared with 36 pupils (four per cent) in 2009."

The Ofsted findings added: "Schools in Sheffield experiencing a large increase in Roma pupil numbers have responded well to the local authority’s Newly Arrived Pupils Pilot, where pupils go straight into school.

"Sheffield has persuaded the large majority of its secondary schools to sign up to take Roma students through fair access arrangements. The local authority hosted half-termly Roma workshops for school leaders and brokers support between schools. However, funding is insufficient to meet demand.

"One of the secondary schools in Sheffield inducted new arrivals in all year groups in a system called ‘New Start’. Under the supervision of qualified teachers, and working with a Roma-speaking teaching assistant, pupils were inducted into school life. They were assessed and then taught phonics and English language.

"This was effective in settling students and getting them used to the curriculum. Pupils also attended mainstream lessons early on in a well-structured way.

"However, this was expensive for the school to run and, if the pupils arrive just after the annual school census, this placed short-term strain on the school’s budget."

Ofsted said its visits to schools in Sheffield at the time suggested they were 'struggling to meet the challenges of supporting this particular group'.

The schools visited in Sheffield were Hinde House Secondary School, Whiteways Primary School and Wincobank Infant School.

A further five schools answered a questionnaire as part of the report - Fir Vale Academy, Phillimore Community Primary School, Sheffield Park Academy, Tinsley Nursery and Infant School and Tinsley Junior School.