Education & Family

Teaching on the frontline of the migration crisis

Child at the camp
Image caption The Grande-Synthe camp in northern France was set up to give families better facilities

A school in the Grande-Synthe camp in northern France stands on the frontline of the migration crisis - trying to provide an education to children whose parents are determined to get to the UK. Our education correspondent, Gillian Hargreaves, has been given rare access to the school run by British teachers.

Among the row upon row of wooden huts housing families and groups of single men, there's a small, white wooden building.

This is a school that is trying to provide an education for children in the most difficult of circumstances - at the interface between people-smuggling and the ordinary world of childhood.

Rory Fox, a Cambridgeshire head teacher, has a mission. It is to provide schooling for children who may languish in this camp near Dunkirk, or be on the road for months, or even years, at a time.

Image caption Most of the children at the camp get one-to-one tuition

Some of his pupils have had no schooling at all. Others have seen their classrooms blown up by so-called Islamic State (IS).

Almost all need intensive one-to-one tuition to help them catch up with their peers.

Rory says the school is well-resourced but the one-to-one teaching means he is always short of teachers.

Some volunteers have come out of retirement, others have given up their half-term holiday, some are primary school specialists and others have taught at secondary school - but all come with the aim to help.

He denies there's a risk that a school could possibly make life more comfortable for families at the camp.

"I think it's about fairness, isn't it. And it's not right that these children in this field, just because of how circumstances are, don't have access to the education that everyone else takes for granted," he says.

Image caption Rory's mission is to provide schooling for these vulnerable children

Even getting children to the classroom is a challenge.

Many will have been awake late into the night trying to board trucks to England.

And if it is wet weather, their mothers will not let them out because they have nowhere to dry clothes.

Some arrive at school with injuries they have sustained while trying to break into or board trucks. The camp can be a brutal place for children .

The smugglers have set up a trestle table in the centre of the camp offering deals for families - though because it is more difficult to smuggle an entire family and inevitably more costly, the going rate is now apparently 50,000 euros (£38,600).

Teenage boys are targeted to break into the trucks because they are under the age of criminal responsibility if they get caught .

Image caption The camp stands on the frontline of the migration crisis

And girls, as young as 14, are offered heavily discounted passage to the UK, about 1,000 euros (£774) each only to end up in the sex industry.

It is not unusual for parents to give the youngest children alcohol to make them fall into a deep sleep so they are quiet as families try to board the trucks.

Rory's deputy, Ginny Parry, has seen a real difference in those children who do decide to attend the school .

"I have seen children who have come into this camp looking sad, looking tired, looking beaten up by the world who will sit in school and learn and grow... they will grow, they will become proud of themselves.

"You couldn't ask for anything more.

"I think what I will go away with is the absolute core belief in education and the power of it to transform people," she adds.