THERE are more than 3,200 pupils in Fife for whom English is not their first language - and across the Kingdom an incredible 72 different languages are spoken in our classrooms.

Families fleeing from conflict in Ukraine, Afghanistan and Syria has led to a rise in the number of refugee, asylum seeking and displaced children in our schools, and councillors wanted to know what's being done to help these "very unfortunate young people".

Fife Council said the percentage of pupils with 'English as an Additional Language' (EAL) had shot up by 85 per cent in the last five years and outlined the support on offer and some of the difficulties the youngsters face, including racism, coping with the trauma they've witnessed and cultural differences.

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A report to the cabinet committee by head of education Maria Lloyd said: "The most significant challenge has been the language barrier.

"Other challenges the young people shared included racism / bullying from peers as well as in wider society, such as being told to return to their own country or being called a 'terrorist'.

"Other pupils have shared the challenge of waiting for the asylum-seeking process as they are currently unable to proceed with some activities such as learning to drive.

Dunfermline Press: While Fife schools reported many positives, some children who have arrived from other countries have experienced bullying and racism.While Fife schools reported many positives, some children who have arrived from other countries have experienced bullying and racism. (Image: Newsquest)

"Educational challenges that some of the pupils shared included being asked questions in front of the class, not understanding the content of lessons and requiring extra time to complete class work."

A census carried out in September said there are 3,208 pupils in Fife with EAL, ranging from those completely new to the language to those who had some understanding and others who were "developing competence".

Ms Lloyd added: "Across the authority the pupils speak a range of 72 languages, the most popular being Polish, Romanian, Urdu, Arabic and Ukrainian."

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Councillors were told that, in general, the children tend to "pick up English quite quickly" and the local authority works with other partners to help integrate families, such as helping kids to join local sports clubs.

The EAL support service assists children and young people across Fife from age two to 18 and, while resources and staffing haven't kept up with increasing demand, they have applied for more funding.

Ms Lloyd told councillors that schools have reported the "positive impact that refugee and asylum-seeking pupils bring to their settings".

This included an increased sense of community and diversity, where families were keen to support the new arrivals, children made friends in the classroom and shared stories about their previous school experiences and their previous homes, while awareness of children's rights also improved.

The committee heard that arrivals from Afghanistan had "previously worked with the British government" and moved into Ministry of Defence accommodation - 19 families in Leuchars and three families in Rosyth.

Cllr Alycia Hayes highlighted recent "racist incidents" in Leuchars and asked if there was specific training for school staff on dealing with such incidents.

Ms Lloyd said it comes under anti-bullying and there were policies and training in place, adding that children who had been affected had felt well supported by staff and considered their school a "safe space".

Her report said more than 100 children from Ukraine are enrolled in schools in Fife and while wraparound council support for Syrian families through resettlement schemes had "predominantly ended", pupils from Syria remain supported in school.

There are also 18 unaccompanied asylum-seeking children who are housed within supported lodgings and classified as looked after young people.

Ms Lloyd said school attendance of EAL pupils was generally lower and this can be down to youngsters returning to their country of origin to see family members, such as fathers in Ukraine who cannot leave due to national service, as well as cultural differences on the age of leaving school.

The council said they had impressed on families the importance of attendance and education and had taken steps to support other differences in culture, such as providing prayer rooms, helping to celebrate events like Ramadan and providing Halal food.