English language teaching jobs lost

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Hundreds of children from immigrant and refugee families will return to school next week to find their specialist language teachers have left and not been replaced.

Ministers have failed to allocate more than pounds 50m needed to fund the teaching of children whose first language is not English. The delay and uncertainty are jeopardising thousands of jobs, local authorities say, and staff have left for more secure work. If no money is provided, more than 8,000 specialist teachers could be made redundant.

Bids for next year's Section 11 programme, funded by the Home Office to teach children English, should have been invited five months ago. Local authorities believe the delay has been caused by ministerial wrangling between the Department for Education and Employment and the Home Office over distribution of funds.

In Tower Hamlets, where English is a second language for six out of 10 pupils, more than pounds 5m is at stake, along with 300 teachers' jobs. Anne Sofer, the borough's director of education, said staff could not see a future in Section 11 teaching.

"We are now at least five or six months late on this and there is no assurance there is going to be any money anywhere," she said.

At Cyril Jackson Primary School in Limehouse, East London, six out of 10 pupils are from Bangladeshi families. Others come from Chinese, Vietnamese and Somalian backgrounds.

One of the school's four language teachers has left, along with a bilingual helper. The head teacher, Peter Sawyer, said some pupils would have to be principally taught by untrained bilingual helpers.

A report to be published this week by Ofsted, the school inspection body, praises Tower Hamlets' work in teaching English to ethnic-minority children, saying that Bangladeshi children who achieve lower scores than their white classmates at GCSE were surpassing them after they became fluent in English.

A Home Office spokeswoman said ministers were still considering the issue.