Today’s Times carries an interesting story. A new report from the Department of Education reveals that:
‘Almost one in three of England’s primary school children is from an ethnic minority – the highest level yet. One pupil in five speaks English as a second language.’
There follows some information about how these numbers are putting an ‘unprecedented pressure’ on schools which now ‘struggle to cope’ after a 2.1 per cent increase in pupils at state primary schools in one year alone.
The extraordinary thing about stories like this is that they just sail by. No politician has anything much to say about it. Someone in the media might write a piece saying how great it is that students in England’s schools will have such language skills in the years ahead. Someone else might recycle an article about how proud they are of this ‘diversity’. The sole concern it will be possible to raise will focus on potential ‘strain’ on school places and other public services.
Yet I suspect that this is not very reflective of the wider public feeling and that a lot of people read stories like this and feel at least a twinge of concern. Not because they are ‘raaaaacists’ but because they like the country they live in and do not want it to change completely. They may also wonder what proportion of these students will integrate beautifully into English life and what proportion will grow up with a degree of grievance or even antagonism towards our country.
Of course almost no one in the media will give voice to these concerns because of the mountain of abuse they will receive and the low motives that will be attributed to them. Those who favour mass immigration regularly ridicule those who say that we don’t have any serious discussion about immigration. They snort, ‘Where the hell have you been all these years? Do you never read the papers?’ But despite the derision it remains the case that we don’t really have any discussion on immigration. One sign of it is that major stories like the one above come and go and each time the amount that people feel able to say about it becomes more and more constrained.
But perhaps I could say that the onus of questioning ought to be aimed at those who claim to be absolutely cool with this unprecedented societal change. In particular we should ask them if there is any figure which would ever cause them concern? For instance will they voice quibbles when half the pupils in England’s schools are from an ‘ethnic minority’? In other words when so-called ‘minorities’ in fact become a ‘majority’. Will it cause them any concern at all when, say, three in five pupils in English schools have English as a second language? Or will even that just elicit more articles about how wonderful the language skills of the next generation are going to be?