Foreign children

My six-year-old daughter attends a state school in London where the children, between them, speak nearly 40 different languages. Over 70% of the new arrivals speak little to no English at all.

After three or four years, their improvement scores are, of course, off the charts. Miraculously, their absolute attainment scores in all areas, including reading and writing English, are by then also substantially above local and national averages.

I am a governor at this school, and beam with pride at what the teachers, parents and kids achieve with relatively meagre resources, all in an environment over-brimming with unselfconscious kindness and tolerance. Walk around the school corridors and you’ll find pinboards festooned with Union Jacked exhortations of “British values”. Turn your head and you’ll see the decorations created for Eid celebrations. Just down the passage, you’ll encounter a display depicting children in their St George’s Day “bakeoff”, replete with red and white fairy cakes. And, next to the dragon, this time not honouring St George, but made to commemorate Chinese New Year, you’ll see the photo of Jewish kids lighting a Chanukiah  in the school hall.

If you want to know why London voted Remain so vehemently, it wasn’t out of some cussed sentimentality or elitist snub; it was because of this sort of lived reality.

So when Brexiters and their xenophobic fellow-travellers stamp on such hopeful flowers, I can’t help but take it rather personally.


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