There is no completely accurate national and local demographic data on the numbers of refugee and asylum seeker children in the UK. Published data on asylum applications in the UK does not include numbers of dependants or break dependents down by age group. In 2003, the Refugee Council estimated that there were almost 99,000 refugee children of compulsory school age.
The largest national group of refugee children are Somalis. Other significant groups are Sri Lankan Tamils, Turkish nationals, Zimbabweans, Iraqis, Afghans and Iranians. Local authorities with particularly high numbers of refugee children include Barnet, Brent, Camden, Ealing, Enfield, Hackney, Haringey, Hounslow, Islington. Lewisham, Newham, Redbridge, Waltham Forest, Westminster, Manchester, Glasgow and Birmingham.
Refugee children in Britain are a diverse group. Some children may arrive in the UK with both parents; others may only have one parent caring for them. Some children may live with older brothers and sisters, or with relatives and friends. Other children arrive alone and unaccompanied, without a parent or carer (Link to Unaccompanied children).
Schools and early years providers play a vital role in promoting the wellbeing of refugee children, helping them to rebuild their self-esteem and friendships, and achieve with their learning. Teachers and early years practitioners have developed considerable experience in working with refugee children and their families; they have become more aware of their experiences and needs, and the necessity for practitioners from different services to work closely together.
Schools and early years settings are often very positive about how the presence of refugee children has enriched the life of the school community and the learning environment. Refugee families are supportive of schools and their children can be highly motivated to learn and make progress.
Local authorities (LAs) have a duty to provide full-time education for all children of compulsory school age resident in that LA, as outlined in Section 14 of the Education Act 1996. Refugee and asylum seeker children aged 5-16 have the same entitlement to full-time education as other children in the UK.