On Saturday 21st March, Rupa spent a morning at Ealing's Tadeusz Kosciuszko Polish Saturday School. Among the people she spoke to were the year 13 students who were preparing for their Polish A Level exams in June.
Student, Izabela Kaliniecka-Williamson, who studies at Twyford High School in the week, explained to Rupa how the Polish A level strengthened her approach to English literature studies. She said:
"It gives you a wider range of A levels and it allows people who were born in England to carry on with their culture."
But Rupa learned that there is huge concern over the proposed eradication of the Polish A level from 2018 onwards. Wiktor Moszczynski, Chairman of the Polish Veterans Association, explained that exam boards are under pressure from the government to eradicate subjects which attract a smaller number of students.
There are 4059 Polish speaking school children in Ealing this year. Some 27,000 in London and 72,000 in the UK.
Many Polish schools have been set up since 2004 when Poland joined the EU, but some 70 have existed since the 1940s, including the school in Ealing which was founded in 1948 and is currently attended by about 700 pupils, the biggest in the UK. There are spill over new schools in Ealing now, at Ellen Wilkinson School, in Elthorne and in Northolt.
"I cannot believe how the Department for Education is allowing this abolition of Polish A level examinations.
“In a CBI [Confederation of British Industries] survey last year, UK businesses listed Polish as the fourth most important language to acquire amongst its staff, A good knowledge by UK citizens of Polish is vital for the UK's commercial, cultural and diplomatic interests."
“The Poles have been an important community, central to Ealing’s social fabric for many years.
A number of my school friends would vanish off to Polish school on a weekend when I was a kid here in Ealing, so it was great to get a flavour of what happens here. The head Mrs Bninska, and all the teaching staff made me feel very welcome.
The Polish school in Ealing is a trail-blazer, it has been in existence for 65 years and now advises newer schools. It would be serious misjudgement to see the Polish A level, along with Hebrew, Urdu. Japanese and my parents language, Bengali, axed from the curriculum.”
Tristram Hunt, Labour's education spokesperson, said:
“David Cameron’s government has caused chaos in our education system, rushing through changes on a political timetable. This is to the detriment of the kind of broad and stretching curriculum needed in our schools if we are to succeed as a country in the global economy.”
Nuna Staniaszek, vice chair of trustees at the school, said:
“We consider the plans to abolish the Polish A level to be very short-sighted and unjustified decision, when our school has increasing numbers of young people wanting to take the exam, and Polish is the second most frequently spoken language in the UK.”