§ Lord Ouseley
asked Her Majesty's Government:
How many asylum seekers and refugee children are currently without a school place; the local education authority areas in which they are located; the average time they are likely to wait to be provided with formal education; and the implications of any delay for compliance with human rights and race relations legislation. [HL2355]
§ The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Education and Skills (Baroness Ashton of Upholland)
The education of children of asylum seekers and refugees is the responsibility of local education authorities (LEAs) and the process of admitting them to school is no different from that which applies to any other child. It is not possible to specify either the number of these children who are without a school place or the LEAs in which they are located. To collect such data would be a very complex exercise and a considerable burden on schools.
LEAs allocate school places to children of asylum seekers and refugees as quickly as possible. However, we recognise that as the majority of these children arrive during the school year it will often happen that school's places will already have been allocated before they arrive in an LEAs area. Where this happens, an LEA is still required to make arrangements for them to receive suitable education until a school place can be found.
Children of asylum seekers and refugees have the same right as any other child to access the education system in the United Kingdom. The right to education, however, does not give rise to the right to be admitted to any particular school. Provided that the proper steps to remedy any shortfall in school places have been taken and that suitable education is provided until a school place can be found, we believe that LEAs will have complied with their obligations under the European Convention on Human Rights.
LEAs must also comply with the provisions of the Race Relations Act 1976. They must ensure, therefore, that the children of asylum seekers and refugees awaiting a school place are not treated any less favourably than any other child on racial grounds.