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Schools pressed to employ refugee teachers

The Government is missing out on hundreds of refugee teachers who could fill skills shortages in science and maths, and provide language assistance for struggling migrant pupils, according to a leading workforce charity.

The Employability Forum is putting pressure on the Government to launch a refugee teacher recruitment drive, similar to the successful campaign on behalf of refugee doctors. It is urging schools to be more open-minded about who they hire.

"This is not a situation in which we're asking people to act out of charitable motives - but out of self-interest," said Stephen Jones, co-chair of the Refugee Teachers Taskforce. "Refugee teachers have linguistic skills, they are good role models and form bridges between pupils and the wider community."

An estimated 1,500 refugee teachers live in England, but many are denied jobs either because their qualifications are not recognised or, in the case of asylum seekers, because they are banned from paid work.

Sir Robert Dowling, headteacher of George Dixon International School in Birmingham, said his newest recruit, a science teacher, was a Somali refugee he had met at the school gates. His most recent job had been as a fork lift truck driver.

Dawn Taylor, deputy head of workforce issues at the Department of Education and Skills, said they were in discussions with the forum about increasing training provision.

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