HC Deb 22 March 1983 vol 39 cc710-2
8. Mr. Proctor

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what recent representations he has received concerning special assistance from his Department for the ethnic minorities; and if he will make a statement.

Dr. Boyson

My right hon. Friend often receives representations about the particular educational needs of ethnic minority children. Our policy is that all children, whatever their background, should have an education which enables them to fulfil their potential and to play their part in British society.

Mr. Proctor

For how long will this special assistance to the ethnic minorities continue? Will my hon. Friend give an assurance that there will be no diminution in educational standards as a result of resources going into those areas?

Dr. Boyson

If children come from non-English-speaking backgrounds, additional resources are required to teach them English, not only for their sake, but for the sake of other children in their classes. If that need is there, help will be given.

Mr. Jim Marshall

Will the Under-Secretary of State, who is keen to protect and maintain denominational schools, ensure that Sikhs, Hindus and Moslems are able to participate in their own religions in the state schools?

Dr. Boyson

As a former headmaster of schools with mixed intakes where there were separate assemblies, I can tell the hon. Gentleman that there is nothing to stop local education authorities and schools arranging for separate assemblies inside their schools where there are specific groups or numbers of any of those particular religions.

Mr. Alton

How many local authorities have specialised language centres for helping children from ethnic minorities? What resources are currently being made available to them?

Dr. Boyson

Local authorities differ in the way in which they deal with this matter. Some send the teachers to the schools; others take the children out to special centres. I cannot give the figures. If the hon. Gentleman writes to me, I will give him all the specific information that I have.

Mr. Nicholas Winterton

I fully endorse the comprehensive responses made by my hon. Friend to the questions put to him so far. However, does he agree that ethnic minorities in this country have a responsibility to their own children? Does he further agree that it would be helpful if the mothers and fathers of those children who have recently come to this country did their best to help their children by speaking English in their homes, as there would then not be so many problems in the schools? What consideration is my hon. Friend giving to this aspect? Does he agree that, by providing too much money for ethnic minorities, many of our own people may suffer as a result?

Dr. Boyson

It is normal for immigrant parents who speak English to speak English in their homes. The problem arises when the parents do not speak English. Some authorities have started evening classes which parents can attend. It is an excellent move for authorities to arrange for evening classes in the English language so that mothers, particularly, can also become part of our society.

Mr. Kinnock

As a Minister, and as the hon. Member for Brent, North, will the hon. Gentleman confirm that he is committed not only to assisting education for ethnic minorities but to developing multi-cultural education to the advantage of all children, and that it is to the advantage of all children to spend properly on education for ethnic minorities? In keeping with that, does he recall the recommendations of both the Rampton committee and, indeed, the Scarman report about the importance of in-service training for teachers and the needs of children from the ethnic communities? If so, why was there no commitment in yesterday's White Paper to the improvement of such in-service training?

Dr. Boyson

The hon. Member for Bedwellty (Mr. Kinnock) may remember that when we were considering the future of colleges of education, and the rest, special access places were kept open specifically for the training of those teachers. North London polytechnic is a specific example. There is concern about this matter. The important factor that we must remember on both sides of the House is that these children, from wherever they come, should be trained and taught to fit into our society. That is as vital for the host community as it is for the immigrant community. Anything that we do must be in keeping with that overall intention.

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