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Primary Education

Volume 79: debated on Tuesday 21 May 1985

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asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science how many children entered primary education in the latest year for which figures are available who were unable to speak English.

As we know that a considerable number of children enter primary education without a command of English, is my hon. Friend content with the present arrangements for the recruitment, training and employ-ment of teachers who are members of the minority groups from which a number of those children come, and who are capable of speaking in the languages that the children use when they start school?

The Department is concerned about that point. However, we must never reduce standards lo admit teachers with certain ethnic backgrounds. To do so would be unfair to them and to the children whom they aim to serve.

Will the Minister give praise to education authorities such as Brent which, with a large influx of Gujarati children, was able to set up language laboratories and overcome the difficulty in that way? Will the Minister ensure that rate capping will not prevent youngsters entering primary school from learning English?

I welcome good practice wherever it exists. Rate capping and the problems caused by it are matters for the local authority.