08/06/2012 14:06 BST | Updated 22/05/2015 06:12 BST

The Primary School Where 31 Languages Are Spoken (And They're Brilliant At English!)

The primary school where 31 languages are spoken (and they're brilliant at English!) PA Stock image

A primary school has been praised for improving its results – despite the challenge of its pupils speaking an incredible 31 languages between them.

Only a small minority of the 414 pupils at English Martyrs' Catholic School in Sparkhill, Birmingham speak English as their first language.

But this rich diversity has improved its SATS results: last year 91 per cent of pupils achieved the benchmark level four or above in English, and 89 per cent in maths; an achievement the new head Evelyn Harper says is down to the value the pupils' home cultures put on learning.

Languages spoken at the school are: Afrikaans, Arabic (Iraqi), Arabic (Lingala), Arabic (Sudanese), Arabic (Yemeni), Bengali (Bangla), Bengali (Sylheti), Czech, Dutch, English, Gaelic, Gujarati, Gurmukhi, Hindko, Jamaican Patois, Kachi, Lingala, Mirpuri, Nepalese, Pashto, Polish, Portuguese, Punjabi, Romanian, Somali, Spanish, Sudanese, Swiss French, Tamil, Urdu and Yoruba.

The majority come from a Pakistani background and the most common first languages spoken are Urdu and Mirpuri.

To deal with the range of languages spoken, teachers are all trained to teach English as an additional language.

The school sometimes uses translators, as well as a 'buddy' system where new students are paired with one already at the school who has the same mother tongue and can help them to start picking up English words.

Head Ms Harper said: "I only came here seven weeks ago, but already I can't believe the respect that parents and children show teachers and the teaching profession that maybe isn't there from white indigenous cultures.


Parents really care for their children, they want them to do better and for that reason our results are very, very high.