Education secretary Nicky Morgan has asked for an investigation into the impact of immigration on Britain’s state schools.
Department for Education (DfE) officials have been asked to look into how much of a ‘pull factor’ Britain’s free education system is to immigrants looking to enter the country. Government ministers want to clampdown on overseas nationals entering the UK primarily so that their families can receive a free state-school education.
There are also concerns that the main reason some immigrants study at UK universities is so that they can work in the UK. The Government has recently concentrated its efforts on making Britain less appealing to migrants by tackling what it calls ‘health tourism’ and ‘benefits tourism’. It now wish to reduce “education tourism”.
Welfare entitlements for migrants arriving in the UK from outside the European Union have been cut. Additionally, in an attempt to reduce health tourism, non-EU migrants are charged 150% of the cost for treatment on the NHS following new legislation passed on April 6, 2015.
The Conservative MP for Loughborough wants to determine if the rising number of immigrants entering Britain can, in part, be due to ‘education tourism’. Morgan believes that Eastern European families are arriving in the UK as education tourists, with the main attraction being the opportunity to learn English, which is widely thought of as being the global language of business.
Reducing Tier 4 visa student numbers
UK Immigration intends to implement new rules to further tighten Tier 4 visa requirements, thereby reducing the number of overseas students at UK universities. Home Office plans include new rules that would target foreign students wanting to study at some of Britain’s ‘less prestigious universities.’
Overseas students not studying at one of Britain’s top 20 ranked universities would find it more difficult to obtain a Tier 4 visa as part of a government policy to attract only the ‘brightest and the best.’
Although ministers have set a target of reducing net migration to tens of thousands per year, recently published data reveals that there were 300,000 more people arriving in the UK than leaving. Prime Minister David Cameron’s recent pledge to admit 20,000 refugees fleeing the crisis in Syria can only place an already optimistic target further out of the Government’s reach.
Schools struggling to cope
The Teachers’ Union has warned that schools are straining under the pressure of trying to integrate an ever-increasing number of pupils who collectively have some 300 first languages. At one in nine schools across Britain, English is no longer a majority language; while in some parts of East London over three quarters of students don’t speak English as a first language.
It’s expected that the investigation the education secretary has asked civil servants from the Department for Education (DfE) to carry out will lead to new measures that will help teachers to deal with issues relating to pupils who don’t speak English. The problem of non-English speaking children is said to be more of a concern during the formative years of primary school, and is said to be worse in areas of the country where immigrant families make up a large proportion of a community, which leaves fewer imperatives or opportunities to speak English outside school.
A senior government source said: “It’s crucial for every government department to play their part in tackling immigration. As we have a cross-governmental focus on reducing immigration and tackling illegal immigrants, the correct step is to assess the role that the education system plays, not just in respect of the impact but as factor in attracting people to Britain in the first place.”