21/01/2004

Refugee teachers could fill gaps in UK schools, says agency

Education authorities should use refugees, fully qualified as teachers, to fill vacancies in the UK's understaffed schools, according to the Employability Forum.

The Employability Forum, which advises the government on employment for refugees who have been given permission to stay in the UK, has said that around one third of refugees accepted for settlement last year were estimated to have professional, graduate or diploma qualifications. In the London area alone over 500 teachers are registered with refugee organisations, the agency said.

The forum also cited a Department for Work and Pensions survey in 2002 which found that 6% of refugees in its sample who were looking for work wanted to teach – one of the largest categories. The same survey found that 10% of those who had worked in their country of origin had worked as teachers.

At a meeting with government and local authorities today, refugee organisations will highlight the major barriers refugee teachers face in finding work and making use of their skills.

Sarah Hayward, of the Employability Forum, said: “People are travelling thousands of miles to recruit teachers from overseas when the answer to their needs is often available on their doorstep.”

Azar Sheibani, Chair of the Refugee Teachers Steering Group, has called for a "funded fast-track re-qualification programme" that recognises previous experience, identifies current needs and provides refugees with the "necessary knowledge, skills and work experience to teach in this country".

He said: "Refugee teachers face daunting hurdles. These include lack of clear information about re-qualification routes, lack of adequate and specialised advice and guidance services, lack of recognition of overseas teaching qualifications and lack of any customised re-qualification programme."

The seminar will hear from the Director of Lifelong Learning, Leisure and Culture of the London Borough of Hounslow, Dr Robert Garnett, about its use of refugee teachers and work in London and Scotland to integrate teachers from refugee backgrounds.

(gmcg)

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