We are working across Government to support Ukrainian students in the United Kingdom by introducing a new humanitarian route; there will be a statement later today from the Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities on that. It will provide them with an opportunity to extend their leave to remain or switch to graduate visas. The Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office is leading on work to ensure that UK students in Ukraine are encouraged to return.
The announcement of the UK sponsorship scheme and the news that the Secretary of State just mentioned are very welcome for Ukrainian refugees. However, as they are temporary visa holders, will the families of those students be included in the Home Office’s Ukraine families scheme? Will the Secretary of State consult his ministerial colleagues on that?
Of the 2.6 million people who have fled Ukraine in the wake of the Russian invasion, UNICEF reports that at least 1 million are children. A large proportion of the 200,000-plus Ukrainian refugees who will enter the UK through the Ukrainian families scheme or the homes for Ukraine programme will be kids. What plans has the Secretary of State put in place to facilitate the integration of vulnerable Ukrainian child refugees into the UK education system?
Thank you, Mr Speaker.
Has my right hon. Friend seen the investigation by Theo Usherwood on LBC exposing pro-Putinist propaganda at some of our leading universities? At Leeds, Professor Ray Bush, still publicly listed on its website despite retiring, suggested that the US had chemical installations in Ukraine. That is, as we know, a lie that is being spread by the Kremlin. At Edinburgh, Professor Tim Hayward retweeted a Russian representative to the UN describing the attack on Mariupol’s hospital as “fake news”. At Leicester, Tom McCormack talks about “ludicrous disinformation” on both sides and boasts about appearing on Russia Today. Will my right hon. Friend contact these universities directly to stop them acting as useful idiots for President Putin’s atrocities in Ukraine?
I am grateful to the Chair of the Education Committee for raising this issue. The Minister for Higher and Further Education is already on the case and is contacting those universities. Putin and his cronies are a malign influence on anyone in this country buying their false narrative. I repeat: it is a false and dangerous narrative and we will crack down on it hard.
As a result of Putin’s war in Ukraine, the United Kingdom can expect an influx of a large number of young students. In the long term, they will need proper education, of course, but in the short term, could my right hon. Friend see whether he can build in some flexibility and normality so that these young people can get into schools and make friends as soon as possible?
I am grateful to my right hon. Friend. I know that he and his family are passionate about wanting to support Ukrainians who are so vulnerable. We are making plans to make sure, as we did with the Afghan resettlement, that every child gets into the appropriate early years, primary, secondary or further or higher education, but I will certainly look at this. I think what he is getting at is that if there is a gap they may be wanting to feel welcome at their schools. I am already getting anecdotal stories about many schools where there is excitement about some of the Ukrainian children who are coming in.
Thank you, Mr Speaker.
In Ireland, Ukrainian teachers are being fast-tracked through the teaching registration process to enable them to support youngsters who will be attending school in Ireland. Obviously, language will be a big challenge for these youngsters initially. Has the Secretary of State considered replicating that Irish scheme to ensure that young people coming to school in the UK will be properly supported?
The hon. Lady raises a really important point. That is one of the things I asked my team this morning with regard to the Ukrainians. Clearly, it will be predominantly women and children who are coming over because the men are fighting the Russian invaders. It is a question of whether we can get more recognition of qualifications so that Ukrainians who are able to can get work as soon as possible.