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Asylum-seeker children find a safe haven in Glasgow

Glasgow is doing its best to support the children of asylum seekers, according to a HMIE report that praises schools for their contribution, despite many challenges.

The evaluation, which covers a range of services, paints an upbeat picture of a city trying to cope with an influx of asylum seekers in the face of problems such as language barriers and racist attitudes.

There were 2,026 asylum-seeking families with 1,411 children of school age in Glasgow at the time of the inspection last year.

Although delegates at the annual conference of the Educational Institute of Scotland earlier this month called for the numbers of non-English speaking pupils in schools to be capped because they were struggling to cope, the inspection found schools were a positive force in asylum-seekers' lives.

Youngsters felt safe there, particularly in primary schools, where they were free from the racial taunts and the physical attacks to which they were sometimes subject in their communities. Parents and their children tried to prevent such incidents by staying at home, but this restricted their contact with others.

Generally, the report said, "universal and specialist services worked well in supporting children to feel safe, healthy, achieving, nurtured, active, respected, responsible and included".

The headteacher of All Saints Secondary is singled out for the way he personally welcomes and enrols the children of asylum seekers. Uniforms are provided with the aim of making the youngsters feel they belong to the school community. They are assessed in the school's international unit and a personal learning plan is then drawn up for each pupil.

Anniesland College also wins praise, particularly for its work with unaccompanied asylum-seeking children - many of whom are in fact young parents. One said of the college staff that they are "more than just teachers and they really care about you".

Although the story of asylum can be one of trauma, the inspectors also found evidence of growing achievement and confidence among the pupils: almost all made very good progress in acquiring English and, in 2006, children from asylum-seeking families did better on average in national exams than other pupils, some of them being "exceptionally successful".

The report stated: "Almost all children worked hard at school and valued their educational opportunities."

The inspectors have recommended that more training should be provided for staff to help these children. Current provision is described as no more than adequate. Particular attention should be paid to unaccompanied children. And rooting out racism should continue to be a priority, the report says.

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