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Thursday, 25 April, 2002, 17:57 GMT 18:57 UK
Schools 'turn backs' on asylum pupils
Would-be migrants at Sangatte camp in France bidding to enter UK
The subject of asylum seekers has proved emotive
Too many schools are turning their backs on refugee and asylum seeker children, a head teacher says.

John Troake, head of Haling Manor High School in south Croydon, says more schools should be willing to offer places to these children.


'Swamping' is an emotive term - it has certain connotations

John Troake
The reluctance of the majority to get involved means the minority that do welcome these children can be "swamped" on occasion, says Mr Troake.

He believes many schools are fearful refugees and asylum seekers will affect their standing in the annual league tables because these children may not do as well in national tests and exams.

This despite the fact that their primary school test results do not count if they have been in the country for less than two years and English is not their first language.

"A number of schools could do more, but the trouble is we're in an environment where targets are paramount and these children can affect that side of things."

Fluctuation

Between 10% and 15% of the 700 pupils at Mr Troake's school are from refugee or asylum seeker backgrounds.

He says many of these people are drawn to the area because the headquarters of the Immigration Service are based in Croydon.

Mr Troake says the situation is always fluctuating, partly because the number of children coming into the UK mirrors a given world crisis and partly because they never know how long they will stay.

But he dismissed David Blunkett's use of the word "swamping" - in relation to local schools and asylum seekers - as emotive.

"In that context, 'swamping' is an emotive term - it has certain connotations.

"But sometimes schools do get literally swamped, because a plane lands at Gatwick or a container is opened at Dover and suddenly we're working with 20 or 30 youngsters.

"But if the load was shared among local schools, it would make a hell of a difference."

Induction

At Haling Manor, refugee and asylum seeker pupils are given a special induction programme.

Teachers are made aware of an individual pupil's needs.

Children are given special coaching in English, but they are also encouraged to keep up their mother tongue and even take GCSEs in those languages.

"This is a real confidence booster and lifts their self-esteem and it can also help them engage with the education system here."

The school also has links with a local further education college.

This enables pupils who arrive in the UK late on in their secondary school education to start on college courses a year early.

"This involves an intensive course in English and gets them used to the college environment which can lead to further training and higher education," says Mr Troake.

So do the parents of other pupils at the school object to all this provision?

"It's not a case of taking resources away from other pupils - there are special resources put in place for schools that work with refugee and asylum seeker children."

See also:

25 Apr 02 | Education
Teachers reject asylum schools idea
25 Apr 02 | UK Politics
Blunkett stands by 'swamping' remark
24 Apr 02 | UK Politics
Blunkett plays down 'swamping' remark
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