Sandwell Council in the West Midlands is pioneering what it says is a trailblazing scheme to support children who have come to the live in the UK, including migrants, refugees and asylum seekers.
The scheme run by Sandwell Council and voluntary organisations means that children who arrive in Sandwell from other countries will be enrolled at the STEPS Centre to help them learn English before they join schools across the borough.
The Sandwell Transition Education Partnership Service (STEPS) Centre, based in Smethwick, has helped more than 200 children from abroad learn English since its launch in February 2017.
The aim of the project is to bridge the gap between children arriving in the UK and securing a school place making sure they can speak English before starting school.
STEPS is run by Sandwell Council with support from volunteers and voluntary organisations including The Albion Foundation and Brushstrokes.
The council is now applying for further funding from the government to continue working with families with children arriving from abroad.
Sandwell Council’s Cabinet Member for children’s services, Councillor Simon Hackett, said:
“The work the STEPS Centre is doing reduces pressure on our other schools by making sure new children from abroad can speak English once they get into a classroom.
“These children and their families are refugees, asylum seekers and other migrants who have come to the UK to make a better life for themselves.
“Children have a right to be educated – and it’s really important that both them and their families become part of the community and, most importantly, learn English.
“By working with children and getting them speaking English before they start school, we can help make sure they get a good education and become part of the community they are living in.
“We believe this is one of only two centres in the country run by local authorities – and I’m very proud that we’re working with children, with some having left their own country to escape war or other atrocities.”
The project also supports families by helping parents and carers to learn English – and identifies children with special educational needs and disabilities.
The council is seeking just over £800,000 from the government’s Controlling Migration Fund to continue the work of STEPS until 2019.
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