HMI goes back behind bars as Dungavel pressure mounts

18th July 2003 at 01:00
INSPECTORS this week moved in to assess the education of asylum-seeker children at Dungavel detention centre in South Lanarkshire amid rising public concern about their welfare.

The schooling of an unspecified number of children at Scotland's only detention centre has alarmed MSPs, directors of education and the Educational Institute of Scotland, which last month reignited anxieties at its annual conference in Perth.

On Tuesday, HMI revisited the centre, near Strathaven, to assess the quality of education. Inspectors were first there last October as part of a joint inspection with the prison service in its review of provision for asylum-seeker children throughout the United Kingdom.

The full story will emerge next month in two reports. A joint report with the Chief Inspector of Prisons for England and Wales will feature the Dungavel centre among others. But HMI will now publish a separate report on this week's visit.

Gordon Jeyes, general secretary of the Association of Directors of Education in Scotland, has spoken out on behalf of Kurdish families, and wants to see if children could be escorted to and from school.

South Lanarkshire currently has a service agreement with the Home Office in London to offer education advice. Teachers on site, including English as a second language experts, are employed by the prison service.

Sheena Wardhaugh, EIS vice-president, has urged the Government to reconsider its approach. "Many of these children have already suffered injustice and persecution in their own countries, so why should we punish them further in this country by restricting access to education?

"They have committed no crime, yet they are locked in secure detention centres such as Dungavel and barred from learning in our schools and interacting with our children."

She added: "Its facilities have more in common with a prison."

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