Schools have ‘run out of places for local children amid influx of migrants’

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Families in Kent told there are no places for 11- and 13-year-olds in two areas because of an ‘unexpected’ arrival of migrant children

Schools have ‘run out of places for local children amid influx of migrants’

Schools have run out of places for local children in entire year groups owing to the influx of migrants, councils and MPs have warned.

Families in Kent have been told there are no school places for 11 and 13-year-olds in Canterbury and Ashford because of “unexpected” and “unplanned” arrival of migrant children in the two areas.

The council is having to pay for school transport to bus children who have missed out on places to other towns up to 25 miles away because of the shortage of places.

MPs and all the councils in Kent have protested to the Home Office that services in Kent are at “breaking point” because of the surging local demand and cost-of-living crisis now compounded by the surge in migrants reaching the UK across the Channel in small boats.

‘Completely unacceptable’

Former Cabinet minister Damian Green, Tory MP for Ashford, said: “There are children in Kent being told that there are no school places in their own town. This is completely unacceptable.

“We have to spread the burden around the country and make the whole system faster and more efficient. If we don’t do that, this will become a long-running problem that will really affect people in their daily lives.

“It already is in Kent and this will spread around the country. This is a very, very urgent problem that the Home Office needs to grip.”

In a letter to Home Secretary Suella Braverman, leaders of 14 Kent councils said: “Schools in Canterbury and Ashford currently have no year 7 and year 9 places for local children due to the unexpected and therefore unplanned for arrivals of refugee children disproportionately placed by the Home Office in these two local authority areas. 

“Local children are having to travel to other towns to access their education, placing further financial burden on Kent County Council who have to fund their home to school transport as a result.”

‘Unlawful overcrowding’

It follows the row over “unlawful” overcrowding at Manston asylum processing centre that has forced the Home Office to rapidly move out 2,500 migrants in order to reduce numbers to an “acceptable” 1,500, its legal capacity.

Earlier this week some 250 migrants with children were moved into Ashford’s central Holiday Inn by the Home Office without what the councils claim was appropriate consultation, placing further pressure on local services.

Migrants removed to hotels from Manston's overcrowded processing centre

“The Home Office has failed at every turn to seek the expert insight of statutory partners around safeguarding, public health, Prevent, fire safety, NHS capacity, school places, appropriateness of the facility or its location before residents are in place, and if at all then only after a crisis occurs requiring local intervention,” said the council leaders. 

“Every time we are then promised lessons are learnt, only for the same to happen again, most recently with the procurement of Holiday Inn Ashford Central this week.” 

On Thursday, Tory MPs questioned why the Government housed asylum seekers in hotels in their areas without telling them.

Conservative former minister Maggie Throup was among the MPs asking why asylum seekers had been placed in hotel accommodation in their constituencies without prior notification from the Home Office. She called for an urgent meeting with Mrs Braverman to discuss the “immediate closure” of two asylum hotels in her area.

The MP for Erewash in Derbyshire added: “A recent Home Office decision to house 400 asylum seekers in two hotels in Erewash, just 50 metres apart, is a prime example of where Members are routinely cut out of the decision-making process by government departments.

“Had I been asked I would have opposed these accommodation centres due to the unacceptable pressures on the local services in my constituency.”

‘Incredibly difficult’

Penny Mordaunt, the Commons Leader, said she would write to ministers about the concerns, adding: “Sadly she is not alone, I think there are other colleagues as well who have similar experiences. She will understand that this is an incredibly difficult and complex issue which the Home Office is trying to manage.

“We clearly want to bring forward swiftly legislation that will help us tackle this issue and I hope all members of this House will support us in that aim. Clearly, not being aware of what is happening is unhelpful, particularly as the local authority will need to prepare and have as much notice as possible for that happening.”

Conservative MP Selaine Saxby also hit out at a decision to house asylum seekers in her constituency, as neither she nor the local council had been informed.

The North Devon MP said: “Please can my right honourable friend explain who is managing the dispersal of asylum seekers to hotels? Having raised it previously, it’s not DLUHC (Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities) and it does not seem to be the Home Office either.”

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