Unions condemn deportation of African teachers brought to UK in staff crisis

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The Independent Online

African teachers brought to Britain to help solve the schools staffing crisis have lost their last battle to avoid deportation next month.

The Home Office has rejected requests from MPs and Britain's biggest teachers' union, the National Union of Teachers, to allow them to remain in the country.

Teachers' leaders said that the Government's behaviour had been "disgraceful".

The teachers, mainly from South Africa and Zimbabwe, were made redundant by the agency that hired them when supply work dried up - partly as a result of the funding problems facing schools this year.

About 18 have still not found jobs and have been told that they will be expected to leave the UK at the end of next month, when their permission to remain in the country expires. They were brought into the UK by the Teaching Personnel agency when the Government relaxed work-permit laws to allow staff from abroad to be recruited as supply teachers.

Doug McAvoy, the general secretary of the NUT, said many other private agencies believed the Government's experiment would be "dangerous and therefore were reluctant to become involved in it".

"These teachers are suffering as a result of the Government trying to plug staffing gaps by recruiting from abroad," he added. He said that some would be replaced by classroom assistants next term as a result of the Government's agreement with other teachers' unions to reduce their workload.

Kevin Courtney, secretary of Camden NUT in north London, who has been campaigning to help the overseas teachers, added: "It is the failure of the Government's experiment that has landed these teachers in this situation. It is ridiculous, therefore, that the Government won't now help them."

One of the teachers, Lawrence Madubeko, is facing deportation to Zimbabwe after giving up a full-time job to come to the UK. He said he had been promised work and a salary of £18,000. However, it dried up after a few months and he was made redundant.

Mr Madubeko has been offered a job with the Kent Autistic Trust, but the Home Office said the post did not meet itscriteria for work permits - on the grounds that sufficient effort had not been taken to recruit in the UK or Europe. The trust is expected to appeal against the ruling.

A Home Office spokesman said 34 teachers had originally been granted exceptional leave to remain in order to help them find jobs, but this will expire next month. The NUT is arranging two days of seminars next week to help the remaining 18 teachers find jobs and offer them guidance on how to appeal against immigration decisions.