A spokesperson for the Southend Primary Alliance Council has confirmed that 50 full-time Arabic interpreters have been hired ahead of the start of the new academic year – the news comes as a number of parents have received a text message advising them that a limited amount of lessons will be ‘bilingual’ from September. 

SPAC released a statement explaining that the influx of 350 refugee children will be divided equally across all local primary schools as part of the borough’s overall refugee commitment. 

It added: ‘We are pleased to announce that 50 full-time Arabic interpreters will divide their time across all local primary schools to ensure that everyone settles in and gets actively involved in their host school’s way of life.’

‘In addition to this, we have arranged for a limited number of classroom lessons to be bilingual with materials delivered in English and Arabic – parents of any affected children will be informed by text message.’

‘SPAC would also like to reassure all parents that the majority of the additional costs for this measure will not be taken from any existing budgets. A small Social Cohesion Levy will be added to school meal prices, and more details will be sent directly to parents in due course.’

‘We are delighted to speak on behalf of all schools when we say that we are incredibly excited about this opportunity.’

We asked SPAC to comment on rumours that certain classroom materials for the new academic year have been adjusted in light of the new refugee arrivals. 

SPAC learning support co-ordinator Angela Biffrington said: ‘In a limited number of cases, materials have been modified to a small extent   – this is in place to ensure that inter-pupil relationships are allowed to develop and thrive without the risk of any offence or unease.’

‘For example, we have obtained a digitally-enhanced collection of Teletubbies episodes where Laa-Laa and Po are wearing headscarves, and our standard-issue Peppa Pig ABC wall charts have been edited so that Peppa appears as Gertie Goat.’

‘Some classrooms will also have had their alphabet wallcharts reversed so they read from right to left – this will be a huge help when it comes to learning a whole new group of letters.’