Speeches, Interviews & Other Statements

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1971 May 17 Mo
Margaret Thatcher

TV Interview for ATV (teaching immigrant children English)

Document type: Speeches, interviews, etc.
Document kind: TV Interview
Venue: Gloucester
Source: Central TV Archive: OUP transcript
Journalist: Sue Jay, ATV
Editorial comments: Exact time and place uncertain; the film suggests that the venue was a school room of some kind. MT was wearing an enormous green hat.
Importance ranking: Major
Word count: 415
Themes: Education, Race, immigration, nationality
opening question missing

MT

I think where you've got a language problem and children aren't learning lessons in other subjects because they can't understand English, it is obviously extremely important.

Sue Jay, ATV

Do you think the parents of an English child in a school where there was language difficulties with immigrant children would have a right to be worried? sic

MT

Well, obviously the headteacher would get on to it very quickly indeed. Because we are now, I think, more conscious of this than we were. The National Foundation for Educational Research has a project on teaching English to immigrant children and the problem really was discovered because they found that a number of immigrant children weren't doing as well at their lessons as they would expect. And then it was discovered that there were defects in their understanding of the English language. You see, I think it is a mistake to assume that because some of them could speak English sufficient to do the ordinary communications, they had a big enough comprehension of it to learn another subject.

What happened here in Gloucester was that they spotted the problem very early—I think it was a joint effort between the Inspectorate and the local education authority—and immediately took steps to deal with it. It is being dealt with in the Midlands and in other areas, but perhaps not in quite the same way as here.

Sue Jay, ATV

In areas perhaps that it is not dealt with so efficiently, do you think that there is a great danger that white children's education is going to suffer? sic

MT

Well, no, I don't think so, because they are trying to teach English to the children who have need of English teaching, and yh I think most local education authorities are now very much aware of this and are taking steps to see that the right kind of instruction is provided.

Sue Jay, ATV

The English language is a second language to a lot of immigrant children. Do you think that the parents are aware fully of how important it is for them to speak very good English?

MT

Well, they won't be, unless it is pointed out to them, obviously. But this again is the job of the schools, and of the local education authority, and they are in fact doing it. And doing it quite well. And I don't want to give any impression to the contrary. I think they're really on to this one.