Britain's schools will open their doors to 100,000 Ukrainian children

Britain’s schools will throw their doors open to 100,000 Ukrainian children says Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi as 10,000 online lessons are translated into their language

  • Mr Zahawi fled to Britain as an Iraqi child refugee to escape Saddam Hussain
  • He said: ‘We are making plans for a capacity of 100,000 Ukrainian children that will come in to take places now’  
  • Online learning business Oak National academy is translating 10,000 lessons
  • Minister also piled pressure on Home Office to speed up visa approvals 

Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi today declared Britain is ready to take 100,000 Ukrainian children and educate them in UK schools.

Mr Zahawi, who fled to Britain as an Iraqi child refugee to escape the Saddam Hussain regime, plans to increase the capacity of schools to help them continue their learning online and in the country’s classrooms.

The Department for Education is yet to provide more details about how and when it expects this to happen, and if all schools will be expected to take Ukrainian children, but unions have already backed the decision.

But the Education Secretary told the Association of School and College Leaders: ‘We have a team that’s ready and already making plans for a capacity of 100,000 Ukrainian children that will come in to take places now.’ 

It came amid the Home Office’s shambolic handling of its scheme for Ukrainian refugees with family in the UK, which has suffered delays and excessive bureaucracy, piling further pressure on Boris Johnson to do more to make it easier for Ukrainians to find sanctuary in the UK. Mr Zahawi himself said much more needed to be done to ‘streamline’ the system. 

Scores of Ukrainian families were turned away at Calais with just 760 people granted visas under the Home Office’ Family Support Scheme despite tens of thousands of applications. 

Mr Zahawi has also asked a tech firm who supported schools with virtual learning in lockdown to fast track Ukrainian translations for their bank of thousands of online lessons.

‘To support schools’ efforts, I asked the Oak National academy to roll out an auto-translate function across all 10,000 of its online lessons,’ he said. ‘And I can share with you today that they have delivered on this, meaning that Ukrainian children arriving in the United Kingdom can access education in their native language.’  

Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi (pictured on ITV last night) says Britain is ready to take 100,000 Ukrainian children and educate them in UK schools.

Ukrainian refugee children rest on their luggage after arriving at the main railway station in Krakow as more than million people already fled Ukraine for Poland, many are unaccompanied

Online learning business Oak National academy is translating 10,000 lessons. The Duchess of Cambridge led an online assembly for students across the UK during lockdown while working with Oak National

When asked if the UK policy towards bringing refugees over from Ukraine was a ‘success’, Mr Zahawi told BBC’s Question Time last night: ‘What you are seeing now is a surge in our capability to take more Ukrainians’

Online classroom Oak National will roll out translated versions of its lessons in Ukrainian and Russian for newly-arrived refugee pupils.

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Mr Zahawi said: ‘What you are seeing now is a surge in our capability to take more Ukrainians.

‘I can tell you in my own department in education, I have a team that’s already making plans for a capacity of 100,000 children that we will take into our schools.

‘The family reunion route will be a couple of hundred thousand people coming through and then the humanitarian route which Michael Gove will outline in the next few days, will be uncapped.’

The online classroom has developed new functions guiding pupils through automatically translated versions of its lessons.

Pupils will be able to access quizzes, video lessons with translated subtitles and worksheets.

The translation function will build on earlier work translating the online lessons into common languages other than English spoken in UK schools, such as Urdu and Polish.

Oak National said: ‘The prototype was brought forward following the invasion of Ukraine which has led to widespread school closures and displacement of hundreds of thousands of children internally and to neighbouring countries.’

The UK will shortly welcome up to 200,000 Ukrainian refugees with a large number of them expected to be school-aged children, Oak National said.

Matt Hood, principal of Oak National Academy, said: ‘It is tragic that the lives of so many children have been blighted by this horrific invasion.

‘The work we have done to make Oak’s lessons available in Ukrainian is only a tiny contribution to this crisis, and pales in comparison to the international effort needed to ensure the safety of families fleeing violence.

‘We hope that for Ukrainian children who will be arriving shortly in the UK , it’s a tool that may help them re-establish some sort of routine once they reach safety.’

He added that the automated translation meant the lessons would not ‘be perfect’ and were not an attempt to align with the Ukrainian curriculum or to replace Ukraine’s own work providing remote education.

‘Oak has been exploring whether our lessons can be translated into the common languages spoken by pupils in English schools for whom English is not their first language but, with the tragedy unfolding in Ukraine, we have pushed this work forward as rapidly as possible.’

Nadhim Zahawi told the conference that the Ukrainian flag was flying over the Department for Education because it stood ‘shoulder to shoulder with all Ukrainians against the barbaric, criminal invasion of their sovereign democratic country’.

He added that it was ‘almost impossible to imagine the horror of what they are going through’.

‘I came here many of you will know aged 11 unable to string a sentence of English together…even the thought of going to school was really scary,’ he added.

‘And if my teacher…hadn’t reminded me to funnel some of that creative, disruptive energy into something good, I certainly wouldn’t be here today,’ he said, thanking members for their work during the pandemic.

‘Oak National Academy has certainly been one of our great achievements,’ he told the conference.

‘It was created by teachers for teachers and shows brilliantly what the profession was capable of in the hour of need.

‘Over 500 teachers from over 50 schools, school trusts and partners working together, delivering over 140 million lessons during the pandemic.’

Phones 4u tycoon John Caudwell poses on the red carpet with his girlfriend Modesta Vzesniauskaite in Monaco last May. The couple have been moved by the plight of the Ukrainian people

John Caudwell’s Staffordshire coach house, which he hopes a Ukrainian family will move into rent and bill free

Britons will be asked to give a home to tens of thousands of people fleeing Russian invaders, it emerged today.

The Government will unveil a hotline and webpage where individuals, charities, businesses and community groups will be able to offer rooms to those escaping the conflict but with no family links to the UK.

Ministers want Britons to open their doors after problems with Afghan refugees being placed in hotels for long periods after they fled the Taliban last year.   

Following mounting criticism, Priti Patel yesterday announced major changes to the visa regime – but charities said they did not go far enough.

Now Levelling Up Secretary Michael Gove is preparing to announce details of a ‘local sponsorship scheme’ to match people in the UK with Ukrainians who want to come to Britain – but this has been delayed until next week. 

Technology minister Chris Philp said the details of plans to allow Ukrainian refugees to come and stay with British families will be set out ‘in the very near future’. 

He told Sky News: ‘We’re going to be making announcements in the very near future about a scheme for UK local authorities, and indeed UK families, to welcome Ukrainian refugees, we’ve announced that principle and the details of how that scheme works will be laid out in the very near future.’ 

The scheme will enable Britons to put people fleeing the war up in a spare room, or perhaps give them a job. However, it is expected that anyone offering to house a Ukrainian refugee will have to pass Disclosure and Barring Service checks, which will slow the process further. 

Boris Johnson told Sky News: ‘On Monday, you’ll get from the Levelling Up Secretary, you’ll get the programme that will allow people to come in, so (if) people want to welcome (refugees) into their own homes, they can do so.’

Refugees who enter through the new route will be allowed to stay for an initial period of 12 months during which they will be entitled to work, claim benefits and access public services.

Officials will match them with offers of free accommodation from the sponsoring individuals and organisations who will be vetted to ensure it is safe and secure.

The Daily Telegraph said those offering housing would have to agree to take the refugees for a minimum period – potentially six months – and demonstrate that they meet appropriate standards.

A Government spokesman said the details of the scheme were being worked on ‘at pace’.

‘The routes we have put in place follow extensive engagement with Ukrainian partners,’ the spokesman said.

‘This is a rapidly moving and complex picture and as the situation develops we will continue to keep our support under constant review.’

Displaced people fleeing the Russian invasion evacuate through the central train station in Lviv, as Britons will soon urged to take in refugees

The refugee exodus from Ukraine since the Russian invasion is now the largest in Europe since Second World War

Refugees are rushing into neighbouring countries – Poland’s population has grown for the first time since the 1980s

The move comes after Home Secretary Priti Patel was urged to do more to make it easier for those coming to the UK through the existing family route.

On Thursday, Ms Patel announced that from Tuesday people will be able to apply online for a visa and will no longer have to go to a processing centre to give their biometrics.

It followed criticism that the UK’s response has been painfully slow in the face of the biggest refugee crisis in Europe since the Second World War with around 2.2 million having fled the country.

However the British Red Cross said the quickest way of fixing the problem would be to remove the requirement for a visa, while the Refugee Council said Ms Patel’s announcement ‘does not go anywhere near far enough’.

Meanwhile, after the Government announced it was sanctioning seven more Russians linked to Vladimir Putin’s regime including Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich, Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said the UK and other allies need to keep up the pressure with further measures – including a freeze on all Russian banking assets.

‘We must double down and ramp up the global pressure on Putin. We must go further on sanctions to keep tightening the vice,’ she said in a speech in Washington.

‘We want a situation where they can’t access their funds, they can’t clear their payments, their trade can’t flow, their ships can’t dock and their planes can’t land.’

Her call came as Mr Johnson warned that the ‘cynical, barbaric’ Russian regime appeared to be preparing to use chemical weapons in Ukraine as its forces continued to struggle to make the expected gains in the face of fierce resistance.

‘The stuff which your are hearing about chemical weapons is straight out of the Russian playbook,’ he told Sky News.

‘They start saying that there are chemical weapons that are being stored by their opponents or by the Americans, so that when they themselves deploy chemical weapons – as I fear they may – they have a sort of a maskirovka, a fake story, ready to go.’

Earlier, the UK Ministry of Defence said the Russian forces were committing increasing numbers to encircling key cities, reducing the forces to continue their advance which ‘will further slow Russian progress’.

Mr Johnson said that he believed the conflict would only end when Mr Putin accepted he had made ‘a disastrous miscalculation’ and withdrew his forces.

‘Vladimir Putin has himself made it very difficult to find an off ramp, and he has, I think, driven his tank, so to speak, down a cul de sac from which it will be very hard to extricate himself but he must,’ he said.

Ukrainian refugees hit out at British Government’s ‘many lies’ as visa application centre FAILS to open in Lille – as those fleeing war are told to try again tomorrow at another office an hour away

Ukrainian refugees were left fuming after a visa application centre promised by the British Government failed to open.

Hundreds of Ukrainians who fled their war-torn country were told unequivocally by British officials that the visa centre would open in Lille today to process their documents as quickly as possible so that they could join relatives or those who had sponsored them in the UK.

Home Office officials also notified the media of the centre’s opening earlier this week as part of its efforts to ease the Ukrainian refugee crisis.

Many Ukrainians were ferried in buses on Wednesday from Calais, where they had gathered and taken to the city of Tourcoing, which is located close to Lille so that they could be near the proposed visa application centre.

But they were left angry and disappointed when it did not materialise, protesting that it further underlined their callous treatment at the hands of the British Government. 

Roksolana, 22 who fled Kyiv and travelled for more than week to get to Calais, said she was told that the visa centre would be open for business on Thursday

 Hundreds of Ukrainians who fled their war-torn country were told by British officials that the visa centre would open in Lille today to process their documents. Pictured: A GV of the Bureaux de la Prefecture which is believed to be the site of the Ukrainian visa application centre

To add to their misery, they are being put up in a shabby hotel in Tourcoing which is normally used to temporarily house homeless people and drug addicts.

Roksolana, 22 who fled Kyiv and travelled for more than week to get to Calais, told MailOnline: ‘We were told that the visa centre would be open for business on Thursday but nothing’s happened. It’s just one of the many lies that we’ve been told by the British Government.’

Adam, 26 who also fled the bombardment of Kyiv added: ‘Every country is welcoming Ukrainians refugees except Britain. I was hoping that I could start my visa process today but sadly, that’s not going to happen.

‘I want to go to Britain because I speak very good English and it is a country that I have a lot of respect for. After everything we have gone through, I don’t understand why we are being mucked around like this by the British government.’

Announcing the ‘opening’ of the visa application centre in Lille, Home Office officials stated that it would only for those Ukrainian refugees who had been referred by Border Force officials.

To add to their confusion, Ukrainians are now being told that a visa application will now open on Friday in Arras, which is an hour away from Lille.

Ioana, who fled the outskirts of Kyiv when the war started said: ‘I’ll believe it when I see it. It’s hard to believe anything the British Government tells us.

Adam, 26 who also fled the bombardment of Kyiv, said he was hoping to start his visa process today but ‘sadly, that’s not going to happen’

‘Every nation in Europe has made it easier for Ukrainians to stay in their country except Britain, who seem to want to kill us with bureaucracy and red tape. I have family there, I want to join them, and it should not be so complicated.’

Announcing the visa centre that never opened in Lille, the Home Office declared earlier this week: ‘The UK stands shoulder-to-shoulder with the people of Ukraine and we have taken urgent action to process visas at speed for all those eligible to the Ukraine Family Scheme, while carrying out vital security checks.

‘In light of the risk from criminals actively operating in the area around Calais, we have set up a new temporary Visa Application Centre in Lille which will open tomorrow (Thursday) focused on referrals only for people in the area eligible for the scheme.’

A Government spokesperson said: ‘We have announced new measures to simplify and speed up the process for people applying to the Ukraine Family Scheme. From Tuesday 15 March, Ukrainians with passports who are eligible for this route can do their application online and will not need to go to a Visa Application Centre to give their biometrics before they come to the UK.

‘To support those people in Calais who are eligible for the scheme, we have worked closely with the French to set up a new, larger temporary Visa Application Centre in Arras for referrals only.’


We drove 1,600 miles… then the UK turned us away 

A Ukrainian mother and daughter who drove 1,600 miles from Kyiv were turned away in Calais by UK border staff who ‘shrugged’ as they pleaded to be let through as refugees.

Alena Semenova, 22, and Tetyana Tsybanyuk, 40, had bought a ticket on an Irish Ferries sailing to Dover and had passed the French border, but were stopped by seemingly indifferent British officials who detained them ‘like criminals’ because they did not have visas.

Miss Semenova, a former medical student trying to reach her godparents in Glasbury, Powys, said: ‘We did not understand what was happening, why we were detained as criminals.

urned back at the border: Alena Semenova and Tetyana Tsybanyuk were trying to get to Wales but must go to Paris first

‘But the border guard officer shrugged her shoulders and said that they would not let us through without a visa.’

They then had to drive 180 miles to Paris where they are hoping to gain visas. 

But this will only happen if the Government eases restrictions for Ukrainians without relatives in Britain. 

Her godfather, Graham Blackledge, a chiropodist whose wife Alla is also from Kyiv, said: ‘Let them come over, house them, feed them, look after them. And then if you want to start processing them, but in the first instance help.

‘And to accuse those seeking sanctuary in Britain of perhaps being Russian spies trying to infiltrate the UK, you should be ashamed of yourself.’

At the Polish processing centre, Natalia Honcharyk, a 28-year-old marketing executive from Kyiv, said: ‘It’s not like we are going on holiday. We only want to get to Britain to seek safety there.’

She and her 37-year-old sister, Viktoriia Kudlysheva, a civil servant, hope to stay with a cousin in Bristol.

‘We are unsure if our application will be accepted here because we had originally booked an appointment in Lviv,’ Miss Kudlysheva said.

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