Refugee Teachers ‘Lost In System’

Hundreds of teachers living in England as refugees are not employed because the system fails them, a report says. Their skills are being wasted and an opportunity for a diverse workforce is being lost, a taskforce of teachers and educational organisations suggests. Its co-chairman, Stephen Jones, said the system for helping refugee teachers find work was “about as unfriendly as it is possible to be”. He wants clearer guidance and a national database of refugee teachers.

The report said more than 1,500 refugee teachers live in England and make up one of the largest groups within the 30% of refugees from higher educational or professional backgrounds. Mr Jones said: “There is a whole raft of teaching and support roles in education where they could contribute.” But too little has been done for refugee teachers despite action plans and databases being set up for other refugee professionals such as doctors and nurses, he said. “We urgently need to tackle the problem or we shall lose their skills altogether. That would be a terrible waste,” he said.

The taskforce says new teachers coming to the country should be quickly identified and assessed, and be given fast-track provision for improving their English. It also called for regional partnerships between schools, colleges, local councils and the voluntary sector.

James Lee, a policy adviser for the Refugee Council, said they were working with training providers to provide refugee teachers with guidance, work experience, English language teaching and a way of tying up their home qualifications with those in the UK.

Mr Jones said: “Refugee teachers arrive here with qualifications, experience and a strong desire to integrate and contribute to our society. The wider experience they bring can add positive value to the education workforce and provide a bridge between refugee children, their parents and communities and the education sector,” he added.

The taskforce was set up by the Employability Forum in 2004 and has members from the government, the Refugee Council and teaching unions.