Recognising the linguistic talents of Newham’s pupils

Sarah Bonnell School in Stratford hosted an educational public meeting last week to promote the diversity of community languages in Newham’s schools.

Over 100 languages are spoken by students in the borough but their talents go largely unrewarded so a number of pupils, teachers, and academics got together to discuss the importance of recognising multi-lingualism in the national curriculm.

The event, at the school in Deanery Road on Tuesday Nov 20, was open to the public and preceded by a half hour language taster session to allow visitors to have a go at speaking Albanian, Arabic, Gujurati, Persian, Russian, Tamil, Urdu, and Yoruba.

The meeting was chaired by Rev Cllr Quintin Peppiatt, the council’s executive member for children and young person’s services.

Rev. Cllr Peppiatt said: “Newham has the largest concentration of minority groups in London, with over 70 per cent of children from minority ethnic backgrounds speaking around 100 languages.

“This places greater importance on the educational establishments to address how this social capital can be optimised.”

Dr Jim Anderson, a senior lecturer in languages and education at Goldsmiths University, was the head speaker at the meeting.

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He said: “The shift we need is from an ‘English only’ to an ‘English plus’ mindset. Bilingualism is not a problem.”

The discussion was organised by Newham Partnership of Complementary Education (NPCE) and supported by the Newham New Deal Partnership (Newham NDP).