Schools catering for growing number of ‘newcomer’ children

Model School


THERE has been a steady rise in ‘newcomer’ pupils – those whose first language is not English – in Fermanagh’s primary schools with some of the highest numbers attending Enniskillen Model and Holy Trinity Primary School in Enniskillen.

Figures released by the Department of Education show that up to 40 newcomer pupils attend Enniskillen Model while over 40 students from an ethnic minority group attend Holy Trinity. St Ronan’s Primary School in Lisnaskea also has up to 30 newcomer pupils.


The increase in cultural diversity has led to a rise in the number of ethnic minority charity groups in the county, including Enniskillen-based group, Women of the World.

Anita Mukherjee is the chairman and co-founder member of Women of the World, and part of their work includes primary school visits where trainers explore cultures and challenge children’s attitudes.

The trainer, who has worked in Fermanagh for some 14 years, revealed that some newcomer pupils as young as 11 can experience prejudice from their peers.

“Schools are doing a good job in helping ethnic minorities integrate and settle into their school life,” she said.

“But there is still racism in schools and on the streets of Fermanagh. Even my son, who was the first Asian boy to attend his local school, was called him lots of names.

“There is still a lot of prejudices, particularly to those from the travellers community and many from the Muslim faith and African countries. Whatever they – children and young people – have heard or seen on the TV is what they are using to form their opinions.

“In the beginning they are weary, especially if the children are from an Asian or African background, they find it difficult accepting that person.


“We have been doing a number of different workshops throughout Fermanagh primary schools. We try to explore their own identity and have a knowledge of the world through play and stories.

“We are not diluting the local culture or promoting one culture – we are saying that people live in different ways.

“It’s about telling them about the rest of the world and how they live and all their similarities. They are very open to diversity and learn that nothing in this world is homogeneous.”

The principal of Model Primary School, Winston Glass, stated that the support from parents and teachers has enabled the school to successful cater for children from other language speaking countries.

He added: “This enhances the very integrated and inclusive ethos the school has promoted for many years and one the principal, staff and governors are keen to enhance in the future.

“One of our key aims is to ensure that all of our pupils co-operate and value each other – we are very fortunate in that our parents are very supportive of this.

“We find that the newcomer children settle very quickly, are accepted, acquire language skills within a short period and there are generally no issues.

“The Newcomer provision is very well co-ordinated, the support network is excellent and by having many years of experience in catering for newcomer pupils the staff rarely face any challenges.”

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