Plan to put asylum kids in schools 

THE federal government is preparing to sign a contract with Tasmanian Polytechnic to run classes for the unaccompanied teenage asylum seekers living at Pontville.

Education Minister Nick McKim used the first parliamentary question time of the year yesterday to express his ``frustration'' over the slow response of the federal government to a Tasmanian offer to place the asylum seekers in schools.

Mr McKim said the offer was made by the Tasmanian Education Department two weeks ago.

``It is disappointing and frustrating that we are yet to receive basic information from the Commonwealth around the age breakdown of these detainees, and we are yet to hear back after a couple of weeks in relation to our offer and the draft (Memorandum of Understanding) we put to the Commonwealth around educating school-aged detainees in the Tasmanian government system,'' he said.

A spokeswoman for the Department of Immigration and Citizenship said Mr McKim had not contacted the department about his concerns.

She said the Polytechnic had been provided with an age breakdown so they could provide programs, and that a draft contract to provide education services to the centre was with them.

She said Polytechnic teachers were already holding some lessons at the centre, which had been well-attended.

Attending school and getting an education is one of the biggest concerns of the 13- to 17-year-old boys housed at Pontville, according to Tasmanian Commissioner for Children Aileen Ashford.

Mr McKim said the government did not agree with unaccompanied minors being in detention, but said while they were they ought to have the same access to education as Tasmanian children.

He said the proposal before the Immigration Department would allow asylum seekers to attend public schools, as well as on-campus classes at Hobart Polytechnic.

Ms Ashford spoke with 29 of the 137 unaccompanied minors living at the Pontville place of alternative detention last week.

She said they told her they were bored and were concerned about their mental health.

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