Ministers accused of neglect as refugee pupils without parents lag three years behind

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Refugee children arriving in the UK without their parents are three years behind their peers in school, with new research accusing the government of neglect.

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At the GCSE level – the attainment gap is similar to that of children with special educational needs and with the most severe disabilities, an education think-tank warns.

The Education Policy Institute (EPI) has found that children with unaccompanied asylum seekers are also more likely to miss lessons or drop out of school than students who are not migrants.


In contrast, asylum-seekers and rehabilitated refugee children living with family members are less likely to be disfellowshipped – and their attainment gap is less than half that.

Report author Joe Hutchinson called on ministers to increase help for children who are often “invisible to the system in terms of education”.

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“It is extremely worrying that the government does not track the progress of these students and they get little support compared to other vulnerable groups,” he said.

“We need to see more of the government prioritizing the needs of refugee and asylum-seeking students.”

The study is believed to be the first to examine the educational outcomes of the majority of asylum seekers and refugee students in England.

It comes as the Nationalities and Boundaries Bill returns to the Commons – initiating another crackdown on asylum seekers – and amid a conflict with France to stop refugee boats.

EPI researchers gathered information from national statistics data obtained through freedom of information requests to the Home Office.

He established that:

* Children seeking asylum alone, in 2016-17, were on average 37.4 months behind non-migrant children in all GCSE subjects.

* The attainment gap for refugee children who have been resettled, or are receiving family support, is still large but much smaller – at 17.3 months.

* The absenteeism rate for Year 11 unaccompanied asylum-seekers was 6.8 percent, compared to 6.6 percent for nonimmigrant children and only 5 percent for supported and rehabilitated students.

* Exclusions (7.1 percent) were also higher in supported and rehabilitated students (4.4 percent) than for non-migrant children (5.2 percent).

* However, there is a permanent exclusion of “nearly zero” for students seeking asylum, which is less than 0.11 percent for nonimmigrant children.

In response, the Department of Education pointed to “significant investments in supporting students from disadvantaged backgrounds” rather than addressing refugee children separated from their parents.

“Councils receive additional funding to help meet the educational needs of children, including solitary minors, who benefit from the support of a virtual school head,” a spokesperson said.

The Borders bill has sparked an outcry because it would tear down refugee law, denying people the right to asylum by unauthorized routes – who would be criminalized and face deportation.

Border force officers whose actions could result in death at sea would be granted immunity, while those helping asylum seekers to enter Britain for philanthropic reasons could also be prosecuted.


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