School with record for most foreign languages


A primary school in Surrey is believed to have claimed the record for the largest number of foreign languages - 44 spoken by its pupils.

The list includes Afrikaans, Aramaic, Filipino, Ga, Kikuyu, Kissii, Kannada, Telugu, Yoruba and Zulu. And of the seven continents, all but Antarctica is represented.

Of the 477 youngsters on the roll at St Matthew’s in Redhill, 178 do not have English as their mother tongue.

Head teacher Janet Lightfoot said: "Many people see this as a difficulty but we celebrate our differences. It makes the school varied and special."

The variety of languages at the school is such that staff have been banned from using slang terms like 'mufti' or 'inset' incase they confuse pupils.

Mrs Lightfoot added: "We have to be careful with words that the children don't recognise, like 'mufti day' and 'inset day', by calling them 'non-uniform day' and 'teacher training day".

The 40-year-old Church of England school has always educated a large proportion of non-English children, but the influx of non-English speaking pupils has led to falling standards at the school, according to Ofsted. It recently ranked St Matthew’s as ‘satisfactory’, highlighting poor writing and mathematical skills.

Despite its record for languages, the school does not have the largest proportion of ethnic minority children, which in London boroughs such as Tower Hamlets is as high as 80 per cent.

There are now nearly one million children, 957,490, aged five to 16, who speak English as a second language - a rise of 150,000 in five years.

On average, 26.5 per cent of primary pupils are from an ethnic minority.

In some London boroughs, such as Newham, only 8 per cent of children up to the age of 11 are from a white British background.