Migrant mums help baby boom

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Almost a quarter of all babies born in South Holland last year were to foreign mums.

They are part of a baby boom in the district which has seen the number of births rise by 30 per cent in ten years.

The new figures, which put the total of babies born to foreign mums at 24.5 per cent, show a sharp rise from just 5.1 per cent in 2001.

The vast majority of those mums were nationals of one of 12 countries which have joined the EU since 2004, including Poland, Latvia and Lithuania.

Since then there has been an influx of Eastern Europeans who have made South Holland their home as a result of the ready availability of seasonal agricultural work and other jobs.

But the figure is much lower than many of the guesses the Spalding Guardian received in a straw poll on our Facebook page, with many readers believing the figure to be above 50 per cent.

South Holland District Council leader Gary Porter said it demonstrated the distorted view many people in the district have of the migrant population.

He said: “It is possible that some people get a disproportionate idea of how many Eastern Europeans we have in South Holland as when you are in the shops and there are people speaking a foreign language you can begin to feel you are in a minority.

“A quarter of babies being born to foreign mums is a high number but it is not a surprise as the majority of the Eastern Europeans who have come here have come to make a better life for themselves by finding work and many of them are of an age to be starting families.”

The increase in “foreign” babies born in South Holland has contributed to an overall growth in the number of births, which totalled 921 in 2001 – up from 681 ten years ago.

Coun Gary Porter says that growth continues to put pressure on local services, such as GPs and schools, but said he hopes, in the long run, it will help as babies born here will be recorded in official statistics.

He said: “Migrants coming into the area can take ten years to be recorded in national statistics and that means Government funding does not accurately reflect our population, but babies born here will be included immediately.”

He says there are other benefits, including young children passing English learning on to parents, helping the whole family integrate into society, and the positive attitude of foreign students rubbing off on their peers and pushing up attainment for all in South Holland’s schools.

But ensuring foreign children are able to integrate and learn the language does comes at a cost – with Lincolnshire County Council pumping thousands of pounds into children’s centres and pre-schools. In 2011/2012, schools in the county received £750,000 to support pupils with English as an additional language.

Debbie Barnes, director of children’s services, said: “We encourage all children to access early education through pre-school provision which significantly helps with their language development.

“Many schools which have a high proportion of children with English as an additional language now have bi-lingual teachers and assistants to support them when they first get to school.”