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Languages in schools

More about the languages of bilingual pupils

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There are more than a million pupils in English schools who speak languages in addition to English. Information from the January 2012 School Census indicates there are 18 languages which are spoken by more than 10,000 pupils.

The most spoken language are shown below. The figures provided here show a number of language variants grouped together in order to provide a comparison with the 2008 published figures. The figures are not directly comparable as the 2008 figures did not include pupils in special schools.

2012 2008
English 5,570,335 84.1 English 5,711,110 87.2
Panjabi 116,350 1.7 Panjabi 102,570 1.6
Urdu 109,215 1.6 Urdu 85,250 1.3
Bengali 87,945 1.3 Bengali 70,320 1.1
Polish 53,915 0.8 Polish 26,840 0.4
Somali 42,215 0.6 Somali 32,030 0.5
Gujarati 40,490 0.6 Gujarati 40,880 0.6
Arabic 39,135 0.6 Arabic 25,800 0.4
Portuguese 24,305 0.4 Portuguese 16,560 0.3
Tamil 24,605 0.4 Tamil 15,460 0.2
French 22,415 0.3 French 15,310 0.2
Turkish 20,490 0.3 Turkish 16,460 0.3
Chinese 17,275 0.3 Chinese 13,380 0.2
Yoruba 15,765 0.2 Yoruba 13,920 0.2
Spanish 14,525 0.2 Spanish 10,000 0.2
Pashto/Pakhto 12,035 0.2 Pashto/Pakhto 7,090 0.1
Lithuanian 11,275 0.2 Lithuanian 4,350 0.1
Albanian/Shqip 11,425 0.2 Albanian/Shqip 8,350 0.1

From January 2007, where a pupil's first language is not English, schools were asked to record the actual language into a coding system which consists of over 300 language categories. However, it was not compulsory for schools to provide this level of detail and not all schools have chosen to use the extended language codes. In 2008, language data were received for almost 79 per cent of pupils whose first language was other than English.

The full details of the numbers of school aged speakers of nearly 300 languages in 2008 and 2011 are available to download in the links to the right.


Data from the results of the 2013 annual pupil census in publicly funded schools in Scotland indicate the top five home languages were Polish, Urdu, Panjabi, Scots and Arabic. A total of 143 languages were spoken as the main home language by pupils in publicly funded schools in Scotland. 37,814 pupils were identified whose main home language was not English. The greatest number of these pupils attend schools in Glasgow.

Data source
Language Table 2013
Local authority languages table 5.8

Northern Ireland

The 2013 annual pupil census in Northern Ireland recorded 10,357 'newcomer' pupils in schools (3.2 percent) compared to a figure of 1,366 in 2001/2 (0.4 percent).

Data source
Newcomer Pupils (2001/02 - 2013/14) Department of Education, Northern Ireland


In 2013, there are 31,132 (6.7 percent) of primary and secondary pupils in Wales acquiring English as an additional language.

Data source
Pupils in nursery, primary, middle and secondary schools acquiring EAL by local authority,region and stage of development (2003 2013)

United Kingdom

CILT Community Languages Report (CILT, 2005) brought together bilingual pupil statistics across the UK and through survey evidence identified 11,000 children In Scotland speaking at least 104 languages; 8,000 children in Wales speaking at least 98 languages; and 702,000 children in England speaking at least 300 languages