Lib Dems call for action on school places for Ukrainian children 

May 25, 2022 5:01 PM
Originally published by Surrey County Council Lib Dems

Boy and girl standing side by side carrying back packs and wearing face masks (Kelly Sikkema Dem councillors have highlighted the experience of Ukrainian school-age children who have arrived to live with their hosts in Surrey under the Government's Homes for Ukraine Scheme but are still waiting to secure a place at a local school.

Lance Spencer (Goldsworth East and Horsell Village) raised the issue at this week's Council meeting citing the example of a child who had recently arrived in the area but had been unsuccessful in their application to a school just 200 metres from the host family's home.

In fact, according to figures from Surrey County Council which runs the schools' admissions process across the county, 377 school aged children have so far arrived in Surrey with less than half (160 as of 19th May) having been offered a school place. Many more are expected to arrive in the coming weeks and will face a similar challenge.

Lance Spencer explained:

"This highlights just one of the many holes in the Government's scheme to bring Ukrainian refugees to the UK. These children have already gone through unimaginable horrors and it is unacceptable that bureaucracy is now an obstacle to them settling into their new lives. We need a more flexible and coordinated process to ensure these young people can continue their education. The fact that Academy admissions are handled by the schools themselves, independent of the county council process for the schools it runs, makes for confusion and frustration for the host families and the pupils themselves."

Several of my Lib Dem colleagues have been contacted individually by other hosts in Surrey who have also had applications to local schools rejected. Some have been able to find a placement further afield, but some have no prospect of an offer at the moment. We recognise that supporting this number of refugees will put some services under strain, but we would urge the County Council to apply pressure where it can. In the meantime, I am glad to see that the library service is making some appropriate educational materials in Ukrainian and Russian available through its Libby app."