Polish Londoner

These are the thoughts and moods of a born Londoner who is proud of his Polish roots.

Wednesday, 27 April 2011

16,305 Polish-speaking schoolchildren in London

I now have the latest statistics for the amount of Polish-speaking children in London state primary and secondary schools, borough by borough.
This makes a 28% increase on last academic year and a 103% increase on the 2006 intake. That increase over 5 years is the equivalent of more than 20 new average sized primary schools in London, 3 of them in Ealing alone, and almost 2 each in Haringey, Hounslow, Barnet and Brent.

The recorded figures for Polish speaking children in London schools April 2011

Barking & Dagenham .. 260
Barnet .. 1058
Bexley .. 111
Brent .. 866
Bromley .. 69
Camden .. 188
City of London .. NR
Croydon .. 468
Ealing .. 2536
Enfield .. 713
Greenwich .. 301
Hackney .. 711
Hammersmith & Fulham .. 370
Haringey .. 1047
Harrow .. 528
Havering .. 148
Hillingdon .. 503
Hounslow .. 1178
Islington .. 210
Kensington & Chelsea .. 167
Kingston .. 237
Lambeth .. 509
Lewisham .. 332
Merton .. 833
Newham .. 674
Redbridge .. 304
Richmond .. 237
Southwark .. 210
Sutton .. 205
Tower Hamlets .. NR
Waltham Forest .. 578
Wandsworth .. 637
Westminster .. 117

Total for all Boroughs 16,305

© Wiktor Moszczynski
"NR” = “No Record"

These Polish-speaking children will become a significant factor in the ethnic mix in schools in London and elsewhere in UK for the next few decades. A smaller proportion of these children are second and third generation immigrants who are children of British citizens of Polish ethnic origin. This older Polish community, emanating from wartime and post-war political exiles, has been a model of how an ethnic minority can integrate into British society and the British economy but still retain their distinct culture and traditions.

The majority of the children however are of first generation stock and will play a similar and important role in helping to integrate their own parents (often with a poor knowledge of English) into the British way of life. Although the majority of these children arrive at their London school with no knowledge of English they are soon inducted (along with many other ethnic minorities and immigrants) into a good knowledge of English. Many of them retain their knowledge of the Polish language and customs through their Polish Saturday schools.

There is nothing new there as that was what happened to me when I was first sent to a school in Ealing in 1953 with no knowledge of English.

While many children in themetropolitan are integrating well there are difficulties for Polish children in tural areas where the local education authorities do not have quite the experience with a large influx of children without a basic knowledge of English. Many like Dorset and Luton have made brave efforts to integrate but a national form of guidance through organizations like THRALL is going to be necessary.

The numbers will not abate. According to the Polish Centre for International Studies there are 130,000 children with Polish citizenship in this country. But every year more than 5,000 children are being born to Polish families in the UK. In my opinion there is an overwhelming need to maximize resources to ensure that this minority, and others from Central Europe, can be comfortably absorbed throughout the varying local communities in this country. Let us remember that overwhelmingly these Polish families are taxpayers (paying income tax, national insurance, council tax) and have voting rights in local elections.

I believe there is an overwhelming need for the British and Polish governments to call a joint conference including education experts and members of the Polish community in this country to consider these issues.


  1. Wiktor - thank you for another interesting post. I always enjoy reading your blog, please keep up the good work! Paddy

  2. Wiktor - like you, as a Polish child, I went to a London school knowing hardly a word of English ("yes", "please" and "toilet", my mother helpfully reminds me).

    As far as I remember, back in the 1960s, there were no 'joint conferences' to consider this issue. No multilingual signage in school, no special teachers, no organisations helping me integrate.

    It would be interesting to see how many Poles there were in London schools in the 1950s and '60s, and how they fared. The vast majority of my UK-born Polish peers went on to university and professional jobs.

    Public money should not be spent on turning young Poles into yet another disadvantaged 'community'.

  3. Thanks, Michael.
    It's a good "laisser-faire" position.
    Also things worked well for us Poles in the 1950s/60s, because we were driven to learn by our parents and the majority of us ended up in grammar schools. So we got a good education anyaway.
    However current education is a far more "hands on" for each and every kind of minority, not just ethnic, and the Polish factor has to be highlighted to ensure that it is not overlooked when other factors are being considered.
    It's a totally different ball game and any head trying to approach this on a "sink or swim" basis would be hounded by Ofsted and soon be out of a job.

  4. This is so interesting. Thank you. We really need these statistics.