For refugee children, access to education is far from easy

Young refugees face barriers to education
10th February 2011: For refugee children, access to education is far from easy.
A charity has claimed the services not supporting refugee children in accessing education.

As a result of poor practice and a lack of guidance, several refugee children are still struggling to access education, the Refugee Council has asserted in its report: `Something to Smile About’.

The report came to the conclusion that young refugees more often than not come face to face with barriers to education. These include perplexity over issues like monetary support, along with unfair and incompatible schools admissions policies.

With the publication of the report, the Refugee Council’s Supporting and Mentoring in Learning and Education (Smile) initiative has come to an end.

The three-year mentoring and befriending project helped as many as 78 children find their way to formal education and more than 3,000 young refugees get involved in educational activities.

The report’s recommendations include calls on the Department for Education to come out with statutory guidance on admissions procedures. It has also suggested classroom support for refugee and asylum-seeking youngsters. Having in place anti-bullying strategies for this group is another of the recommendations.

The report also suggests more awareness-raising sessions by the schools to increase knowledge and understanding of refugees and asylum-seekers. This, the council believes, will go a long way in tackling prejudice. It has also recommended that local authorities provide advice and guidance on access to education for young people and their parents.

Refugee Council Donna Covey chief executive said it was critical for the life chances of refugee children that their interests form a key part of educational guidance and policies.

She asserted 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.
The council works with children every day, who have suffered extreme trauma in their own countries. For them, education plays a crucial role in overcoming those experiences and combating the isolation they often face on arrival in the UK.

Appreciating the type of support offered by the Smile project, Children’s commissioner for England Maggie Atkinson said  her office had seen first-hand how keen refugee children were to learn.


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