We’ll have to find refugees as big a space in our schools as our hearts

Writing in the Guardian, Laura McInerney asks how many parents signing up to help refugees would willingly give up their own child’s top school place for them? 

Faced with images of desperate families fleeing war-torn countries, it is natural to want to help. People with spare rooms and spare seats at the dinner table have signed up in their thousands to share their homes with Syrian refugees. The offers became ever more sincere once they saw how many children were involved.

But how many of those signing up would be willing to give up their own child’s place in a top-quality school to make way for a refugee child?

Humans are often selfish. In the 70s when US schools were ordered to desegregate, sociologists found that, contrary to expectation, racial attitudes actually hardened among white people who were aggrieved at the loss of places in their preferred schools. Sharing resources is wonderful, it seems, until people think they are losing out.

Sadly, school resources are not currently in abundance. Budgets are frozen. The historically high number of infants means places are squeezed. The historically low number of people in their early 20s, plus stagnating wages, mean it is harder to coax graduates into teaching, and a shortage is on the cards.

Which leaves a problem. If 20,000 refugees are accepted into Britain, many of them children, can we school them…

More at: We’ll have to find refugees as big a space in our schools as our hearts


Laura McInerney goes on to suggest that we can and we must, but raises a very interesting point here along the lines of principles only being principles when they actually cost you something.

Are you expecting a backlash if providing places for refugees creates additional pressure on schools’ admissions? If so, how best can it be dealt with?

Please let us know in the comments or via Twitter… 


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Categories: Parenting and Policy.


  1. Stuart Jackson, Peterborough MP, said areas which had a sudden influx of immigrants should receive extra money.  This could be used to employ extra staff and expand schools quickly.  The quality of temporary accommodation has improved – it’s no longer the hut at the edge of the playing field.  But academies can’t be forced to increase in size.  The burden would be on LA schools.

  2. TW

    So it’s all fine while it’s fun, fashionable amongst the chattering classes, and doesn’t last too long.  After that they can be shoved off to working class areas.

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