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Thursday, 20 July, 2000, 14:23 GMT 15:23 UK
School league tables omit refugees
test class
Schools say newly-arrived pupils' results distort tables
Refugee children's exam results are being taken out of the school league tables in England.

Schools Minister Jacqui Smith has said the government is to change the way the performance tables are presented so that the results achieved by pupils who have recently arrived from overseas, and who have difficulties with the English language, will not be counted.


We want to ensure that schools are not discouraged from taking in pupils who arrive in this country from overseas

Schools minister Jacqui Smith
The change coincides with a decision to "disperse" more asylum seekers outside London.

A spokeswoman for the Refugee Council said: "The changeover will be problematic for schools as more asylum seekers will arrive in new schools, needing more support and advice than ever before."

'Right direction'

It estimates that there are some 63,000 refugee and asylum seeking children in schools in the UK.

The change will apply to this year's primary and secondary school performance tables, due out towards the end of the year.

Head teachers say it is a step in the right direction.

"The government has considered very carefully the representations it has received from schools which take in significant numbers of pupils from overseas, including children of asylum seekers and refugees, who have difficulties with the English language," the minister said.

The schools say the present system penalises them unfairly for circumstances beyond their control.

'Cannot do their best'

"Until they have had an opportunity to improve their language skills and to become familiar with the English curriculum, such pupils won't do their best in national curriculum tests and in public examinations," Ms Smith said.

"We want to ensure that schools are not discouraged from taking in pupils who arrive in this country from overseas, including children of asylum seekers and refugees."

The move was welcomed by the general secretary of the Secondary Heads Association, John Dunford.

"This is a small step in the right direction," he said.

"But many schools have a large number of pupils whose first language is not English and who may have entered school as recently as January of the examination year.

National figures unchanged

"It is to be hoped that this is a move towards a fairer assessment of school performance".

The change involves pupils admitted at or after the start of Year 5 in primary schools or Year 10 in secondaries.

It involves the results for individual schools and local education authorities - but not the national statistics, against which the government's performance towards its own targets is measured.

All local authorities are obliged to provide education for migrant children, but frequently they are ill-equipped to deal with the special educational needs of traumatised youngsters who do not speak a word of English.

Recently, the government allocated 1.5m for this year to improve access to education for children of asylum seekers dispersed around the country under the 1999 Immigration and Asylum Act.

Up to 500 is available for each child so schools can help the children settle in quickly and give them extra language lessons.

There are no immediate plans to follow England's decision in the school performance tables in Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland.

See also:

25 Jan 00 | UK
Any port in a storm
09 Mar 00 | Scotland
Asylum-seekers arrive in Scotland
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