REFUGEE children are not a problem in schools. Government policy and funding cuts are. That finding, in research funded by the Economic and Social Research Council, shatters home secretary David Blunkett's scapegoating claim that asylum seekers are 'swamping' schools and other public services.
The government has dispersed refugee families around Britain. That means their children often arrive at a school with no language support. Urban areas are more likely to have support networks. So asylum seeker children get on better there, even though those schools have more of them. Some 68 percent of the 80,000 refugee children in Britain are concentrated in Greater London.
Where there are support services refugee children are more likely to be in the high achieving groups than non-refugees. Blunkett, however, wants segregated education in detention centres for asylum seeker children. His plan has outraged charities and many Labour MPs who have signed a parliamentary motion opposing it.
Carol Munro is headteacher of Salusbury School in Brent, north London, which has pioneered a special programme for refugee children. She sees refugee children as an asset. She said, 'We have between 70 and 100 refugee students. We certainly don't see them as swamping the system. Children learn from each other. We give them the opportunity to blossom.'
The Committee to Defend Asylum Seekers are campaigning against Blunkett's measures. Phone them on 07941 566 183.