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Thursday, 25 April, 2002, 17:24 GMT 18:24 UK
Teachers reject asylum schools idea
David Blunkett
David Blunkett caused a storm of protest
There has been a chorus of protest from within the education system at government plans to educate child asylum seekers in segregated camps.

One teachers' leader called it a form of apartheid.

Peter Smith, general secretary of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, urged the home secretary to withdraw the idea "at once".

Others have said the proper response is to give schools adequate resources to cope with having to take in such children.

They say the best way to help children often traumatised by their experience of fleeing persecution or torture was to involve them in mainstream schooling.

Language

In a letter to the Home Secretary, David Blunkett, Mr Smith said: "It was disturbing to hear of your suggestion that the educational needs of young asylum seekers can be met by what sounds like a form of apartheid.

"In the '60s and '70s there were areas which attempted to teach newcomers in this way.

"Quite rightly, this practice is now seen as restricting learners' access to the language they will need if they are to make an effective contribution to society should they be allowed to stay in this country."

He said it also did not "sit comfortably" with the provisions of the Human Rights Act or the duty to promote equality of opportunity under the Race Relations Act.

"We therefore urge you to withdraw the proposal at once."

Appropriate

His counterpart at the National Union of Teachers, Doug McAvoy, said a far better way of tackling the "complex educational needs" of asylum-seeking children would be for the government to provide adequate resources to schools.

The union has asked the Department for Education to establish a fund for education authorities to draw on as the need arose.

"The government should listen to teachers, who are completely committed to teaching asylum-seeking children," he said.

"It should be concerned to promote the best interests of these children, including their right to education in an appropriate environment."

Instead, it was "promoting an extremely regressive proposal".

"Asylum-seeking children are children first and asylum seekers second.

"Their educational rights should be vigorously protected irrespective of immigration status.

"Education within the confines of an accommodation centre cannot equal the range of provision within a school or education authority."

See also:

25 Apr 02 | UK Politics
Blunkett stands by 'swamping' remark
07 Feb 02 | UK Politics
Immigration shake-up unveiled
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