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EDITIONS
Tuesday, 11 June, 2002, 11:29 GMT 12:29 UK
Asylum children educated 'as normal'
asylum seekers
An estimated 80,000 asylum seekers are in UK schools
Child asylum seekers could be educated in special centres away from mainstream schools, if the government has its way.

But what schooling do these children currently receive when they arrive in the UK?

The Refugee Children's Consortium estimates there are between 70,000 and 80,000 refugee and asylum-seeking children in schools in the UK.

The consortium - which is made up of interested parties such as Save the Children, the Children's Society and the Refugee Council - believes the majority of these are in schools in Greater London.

The children come largely from 30 countries, including Afghanistan, Albania, Pakistan, Sierre Leone and Uganda.

Local education authorities (LEAs) have a legal duty to provide an education for all children up to the age of 16, including asylum seeker and refugee children.

Asylum seeker children are those who have fled their home country and then lodge an application for asylum with the UK government.

They are recognised as a refugee when the government decides they meet the definition of a refugee under the 1951 United Nations Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees and are given indefinite leave to remain in the UK.

A wait for a place

The local authority should make sure asylum seeker families arriving in the UK have access to information, for example through community groups or housing providers, on admissions procedures for local schools.

Tina Hyder, programme manager for London for Save the Children, said LEAs should ensure there are not "unreasonable delays" in finding a child a school place.


Children will slot in and that's the best way

Tina Hyder, Save the Children
"But depending on the pressure on school places, there could be some delay and, in some cases, the delays can be quite long," said Ms Hyder.

"At primary school age there is less of a delay, but for secondary school places - particularly for Years 10 and 11, the GCSE years - there can be more of a delay."

Schools need to be flexible in accepting children who may arrive part-way through a term, she added.

Many LEAs have produced their own policies for schools to help them educate these children successfully.

Schools may well have a named member of staff with responsibility for refugee and asylum seeker education.

Buddies

Ms Hyder said schools often develop their own special procedures for helping these newly-arrived children.

"For example they may have a buddying system, where an English-speaking child will show them where the toilets are and where they hang their coats up and so on.

"And then children will slot in and that's the best way - they'll pick up the informal language and that helps social relationships," she said.

Once children have settled into a place at a local school, teachers will need to assess their language competence and their past educational experiences, said Ms Hyder.

"It's a case of building a picture of the child and working out how best to introduce them into mainstream activities."


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11 Jun 02 | UK Politics
25 Apr 02 | UK Education
25 Apr 02 | UK Education
25 Apr 02 | UK Politics
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