Schools

Kent admits it has not run out of school places amid migrant crisis

Kent council leaders said last week there were no Year 7 or 9 school places in some areas of the county due to the "unexpected" arrival of refugee children

Kent council leaders said last week there were no Year 7 or 9 school places in some areas of the county due to the "unexpected" arrival of refugee children

10 Nov 2022, 16:30

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Adults and children at the Manston immigration short-term holding facility in Thanet, Kent, last week
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Kent council has admitted school places have not run out for entire year groups due to the arrival of migrant children, despite making the claim last week. 

In a letter to home secretary Suella Braverman on November 1, leaders from Kent’s 14 councils said secondary schools in Canterbury and Ashford had no year 7 or 9 places for “local children”. 

They said this was due to the “unexpected” arrival of “refugee children disproportionately placed by the Home Office” in both areas.

As a result, leaders claimed children were “having to travel to other towns to access their education”.

The claims were echoed by Ashford’s Tory MP, Damian Green, who said on Radio 4 it was “completely unacceptable” children were being told there were “no school places in their own town”. 

But a spokesperson for Kent County Council told Schools Week: “Although there is limited capacity, there are spaces in Year 7 and 9 currently in both Canterbury and Ashford.”

Schools Week understands that at no point this year has there been no places in either year group across both areas.

But the spokesperson said many schools were “sometimes operating over their capacity for various reasons”. 

It comes amid heightened scrutiny of the government’s approach to immigration, with the county’s Manston processing centre dangerously overcrowded last month. 

In their letter, Kent leaders said its public services were already “at breaking point”. It raised concerns about the Home Office’s decision to place more asylum-seeking adults in the county at a time when it had 495 unaccompanied asylum-seeking children within its care.

But it is unclear why they referred to refugees, rather than asylum-seeking children, in schools. 

The coordinator of the Schools of Sanctuary network, which helps UK schools to welcome refugee and asylum-seeking children, said the government needed “more effective strategies” to support councils and schools with new arrivals.

But she added it was “incredibly important that institutions are careful about the language they use”. 

“We’re acutely aware that misinformation gives legitimacy to prejudice and division,” said Megan Greenwood. 

Green, the DfE and Home Office were contacted for comment. 

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