Fears for Coleraine’s migrant children

UTU's Jacqui Reid.
UTU's Jacqui Reid.

Coleraine’s migrant pupils fear they may face an uncertain future, according to the biggest locally-based teaching union.

Members of the Ulster Teachers’ Union are calling on the government to pull together to assure about their continued future here in Northern Ireland by the time the new term starts in September.

“This is a time of uncertainty and some young pupils from European backgrounds fear they may be forced to leave. Indeed some colleagues in England have already written an open letter to the Prime Minister asking for reassurance for EU pupils,” said Jacquie Reid from Coleraine, a former teacher at Millburn Primary and Deputy Gen Sec of the Ulster Teachers’ Union.

“Pupils are worried about being forced to leave, about a potential rise in racism and community conflict. They are concerned about their prospects in an uncertain and isolated Northern Ireland on the edge of Europe.

“It is not just the economic markets that need calming – this issue is so much wider. Our young people need their fears to be addressed specifically in regard to their education and their future in the place they have called home for so many years.

“Schools have a pivotal role to play at this time. They are where we shape our next generation and we must ensure that the young people believe they have a vested interested in the future of their country.

“The migrant population plays an important role in Northern Ireland schools bringing a degree of diversity which was not present before, enriching the educational experience for all our pupils.

“Migrant children account for 12,000 pupils in our schools and bring with them 70 languages so already they are playing an important role. Indeed the growing number of children from migrant worker families has boosted classes in some schools which were in danger of closing due to falling pupil numbers.

“This year new inter-cultural training courses were developed in partnership by Northern Ireland’s Inclusion and Diversity Service and Laois Education Centre to help maximise migrant children’s learning experience.

“It all adds up to the fact that having migrant families in the area and their children in our schools is a very positive thing for local communities.”