Languages and English Language Proficiency
Language and being able to communicate effectively is vital to many different aspects of life. This could be as simple as going to the shop to buy some milk or more complex like applying for a job or letting someone know about your care needs. Being able to communicate can provide someone with independence and the ability to find their place in the world.
Being able to speak, read understand English will contribute to the potential employment opportunities that people have, through people being able to make the most of the skills they have they will contribute more to the economy of an area. Being able to talk with your neighbours and those around will help to reduce barriers and improve community cohesion.
With the above in mind it is worth us understanding the level of English comprehension in Somerset. This will affect how services are designed but could also provide an evidence base for funding to improve the level of English comprehension in the area.
There are several national and local sources of data which we can use to help understand use of languages and English language proficiency within Somerset.
At the time of the 2011 Census, 13,599 Somerset residents identified themselves as having a main language other than English, representing 2.6% of the resident population.
Approximately 4 out of 5 residents who had a main language other than English indicated that they could speak English ‘well’ or ‘very well’. An estimated 2,382 residents could not speak English well, and a further 410 could not speak English at all.
Highest concentrations of people who could not speak English well or at all were found in the county’s principal urban areas – including the wards of Yeovil Central, Taunton Eastgate, Chard Holyrood, Bridgwater Eastover and Shepton East.
At the time of the Census there were an estimated 3,404 households in Somerset for which no household member had English as a main language.
Somerset School Census
The Somerset School Census in January 2019 identified a total of 4,939 school pupils with a first language other than English, representing 7.0% of all pupils.
The most common languages were: Polish (2.5% of pupils), Portuguese (0.6% of pupils), Romanian (0.5%) and Lithuanian (0.3%). Overall, more than 100 different first languages were identified.
It may be noted that this information relates to children attending state-funded schools only - approximately 10% of school-age children in Somerset will attend an independent school.
National Insurance Number (NINo) registrations
Each year, over the last ten years, an average of 2,800 National Insurance Numbers (NINo) have been allocated to adult overseas nationals in Somerset, according to the Department for Work and Pensions. In the great majority of cases this would be for the purposes of employment.
In 2018, Somerset West and Taunton district had the highest rate of migrant NINo registrations per head of working-age population (at 10 per 1,000). This was followed by South Somerset (9 per 1,000 population), Sedgemoor (8 per 1,000) and Mendip (6 per 1,000).
Romania was the most common country of origin of registrants in 2018 (a total of 945 people), followed by Polish (416), Bulgarian (202) and Portuguese (130) nationals. Romania was also the most common country of origin in 2017 and in 2016, prior to which Polish nationals accounted for the highest annual figures.
Whilst this information provides a guide to the profile of overseas nationals moving to Somerset, data is not available to indicate if individuals subsequently leave Somerset.
Local Area Migration Indicators
In order to help understand the ongoing movement of people into and out of the county, the Office for National Statistics publishes annual Local Area Migration Indicators, which bring together a range of migration-related statistics at local authority level, including internal migration (from within the UK), international migration, non-UK born and non-British populations, and GP registrations.
The figures indicate that in recent years Somerset's population has been increasing by an average of 4,000 people a year, with inward migration from within the UK being the primary factor in the increasing population. International migration has accounted for about a quarter of population growth in recent years, with an average net ‘inflow’ of 950 people each year.
It is estimated that in 2018 there were 35,000 non-British people living in Somerset, while an estimated 43,000 residents were born outside the UK.