As many as one in four pupils at a Cookstown educational establishment do not have English as a fist language, it has been revealed.
In total, there are five Cookstown schools, including nurseries, which have more than five percent of their pupils classified as ‘newcomer’ pupils, with a total of 232 attending schools in the town.
One primary had 20% of its pupils registered as having English as a second language, and a nursery had 25%.
The figures have been released by the Department of Education. Newcomer children are pupils who do not have the necessary language skills to participate fully in the school curriculum.
The picture is more pronounced in nearby Dungannon, which has three schools in which English is no longer the first language for the majority of pupils.
One pre-school nursery in the town has the highest percentage of newcomer pupils in Northern Ireland, at 79 percent, while a Dungannon primary school has the third highest at 58%.
A further nursery has 56% of its intake described as newcomers, suggesting that the stress on the local educational system is at one of the highest levels in Northern Ireland.
In the field of post-primary education, one Dungannon secondary school had the joint highest percentage of newcomer pupils in the North at 30%.
The new figures show that the number of schoolchildren without English as their first language increased more than seven-fold in Northern Ireland between 2001/02 and 2012/13.
Education Minister John O’Dowd said that his department’s policy – Every School a Good School – Supporting Newcomer Pupils – is designed to create a framework to welcome and value newcomer pupils and to ensure they have access to the full curriculum.
The Minister continued: “The Common Funding Scheme, which funds schools, also targets support to schools teaching newcomer children. In 2012/13 the support stood at over £8 million.
“My Department also provides an additional £900k earmarked funding.”