They struggle to pass GCSEs at their first attempt, according to a study published by the charity Refugee Support. The Government should review qualifications from the point of view of refugees to better recognise their skills, it said.
Work carried out for the group by the Institute of Public Policy Research, the left-of-centre think tank, also called for free English lessons for adults to help them integrate into life in the UK.
The report is based on interviews with 30 refugees who arrived between 1956 and 2006. Those who arrived as children enjoyed less educational success than adult migrants, researchers found. "Interrupted prior education, coupled with a lack of English and curricular support in the UK, residential mobility and delays in accessing school places contributed to the underachievement of child refugees," they said.
Eleven of the 30 interviewees arrived as children from countries including Somalia and Afghanistan where conflict had led to schools being closed. Five of the children were unaccompanied by a parent.
"Recent arrivals were shocked by the poor behaviour and endemic violence in British schools," researchers found. "They received little support in learning English." Some were subjected to bullying.
"Many refugees also experienced long delays before they could find a school that would accept them," the report said. This included a four-month wait for an Eritrean child, despite guidelines giving him the right to education.
The Government was urged to review the system so that the existing qualifications and experience of refugees could be recognised here.