Refugee children in UK still miss out on education - Refugee Council
February 10, 2011

Refugee children in UK still miss out on education

Children’s rights to education in the UK are not being upheld, the Refugee Council will say today as they publish a new report into the considerable barriers refugee children still face in accessing education here.

Refugee children have the same rights to education as other children in Britain by law. But according to the Refugee Council report Something to smile about, discriminatory and inconsistent schools admissions policies, lengthy waiting times to access college places, and confusion over financial support are among factors that leave children who are refugees or asylum seekers struggling to receive the education they are entitled to.

The report is the culmination of the three year SMILE project set up by the Refugee Council and funded by the Department of Education. Through specialist mentoring and befriending services the project enabled 78 children to access formal education, and ran educational activities for over 3,000 children and young people.

The report adds to a body of evidence that shows given the right support, refugee children in the UK often achieve far beyond expectations. The report will be launched at the SMILE conference in Birmingham on Thursday 10 February.

Donna Covey, Chief Executive of the Refugee Council says:

“Refugee children in the UK have both a legal and human right to education, so it is unacceptable that they are missing out due to poor practice and lack of guidance. We work with children every day, who have suffered extreme trauma in their own countries, and for them, education plays a crucial role in overcoming those experiences and combating the isolation they often face on arrival in the UK.

“It is essential for the life chances of refugee children that schools, local authorities, and government departments put the interests of these children at the heart of educational guidance and policies, so that no matter what their immigration status, they are able to access education and achieve their potential.”

Children’s Commissioner Dr Maggie Atkinson will also today address the SMILE conference in Birmingham. She says:

“Every child has the right to education according to Article 28 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, to which the UK is a signatory. I am convinced of the value of the model of tailored one-to-one support found in the SMILE project. The Refugee Council’s report also highlights the structural issues, both the hurdles that might be cleared, and more solid barriers, faced by refugee children.

“My office spoke to young people at a reception and assessment centre and observed an education assessment being done. The young people had a keen desire to learn. We also observed an impressive way of bypassing the ‘language issue’ for new arrivals. This shows we should be doing all we can to fulfil our commitments and the hopes of young refugees.”

The event coincides with the launch of the Children’s Commissioner’s report, Landing in Kent; the experience of unaccompanied children arriving in the UK.