The way education is organised in this country, and many widely shared assumptions about it, support the notion of the monolingual classroom as the norm. Statistically this is of course the case. No more than a small fraction of the child population comes to school at age 5 having learned a mother tongue other than English. Those who do are concentrated in a small number of neighbourhoods, and there the concentration is such that for them and for their teachers the overall statement, expressed in terms of percentages, has no meaning at all. The interaction that is the central fact of their early educational experience is entirely determined by there being no common language. This circumstance is inescapably dominant.