AROUND 2,000 Roma children are thought to be attending schools in the Bradford district following increased migration from Eastern Europe.

Bradford Council is in the process of developing a 'new arrivals strategy' to deal with the large number of families moving to the district and the issue will be discussed by councillors next week.

A report into "managing the demand of new communities" - which refers to people from Central and Eastern Europe and refugee communities - has just been released by the Council.

It says the number of Eastern European families with children registered at schools in the district has risen from just under 100 in 2004 to 3,060 in July this year.

Of these, a large number are from the Roma background, mainly from Slovakia and the Czech Republic - 1,280 children registered in Bradford schools class themselves as Roma, but the Council believes the actual number is closer to 2,000.

The report says: "These new communities add to Bradford's diversity, bringing with them new rich cultural heritages and languages. This presents new challenges for schools as the majority are new to English.

"This, coupled with little or no experience in formal education can make it difficult for social and educational integration and present additional challenges for schools.

"Education has a key role in the integration of new communities into the district."

Among new communities, attendance rates at school are as low as 75 per cent. The report says because recent migrants are unable to claim benefits if they cannot find work, they often "live in poverty with the consequent impact on children and their education."

It also says the increase in school age children is creating "a real shortage of easily accessible school places in some areas of the district" and a "new and distinct pressure on budgets and resource management."

Councillor Ralph Berry, executive for children's services at the Council, said: "We have to make sure there is a clear engagement with these communities on issues like attendance and what is expected, and we need to be able to provide appropriate support.

"In Bradford we are used to working with children from different backgrounds. We have a lot of works still to do and the whole point of this report is to find out what needs to be done. We have to make sure that every child is protected and the resources are there to do this despite any pressures."

The Council is currently reviewing its services to improve support for schools with high levels of students from "new communities" and children's services have commissioned a consultant to develop a new arrivals strategy.

Shipley MP Philip Davies (Con) said: "This sort of unlimited migration is causing huge problems in terms of providing necessary school places and to the cost of the health service.

"We just don't have the service in place to deal with it. This is the reason we need to get out of the EU, this report lays it bare."

Carlton Bolling College, one school with a high proportion of Roma students, recently held a Gypsy/Roma awareness week to give pupils a greater insight into the culture.

The scrutiny committee will discuss the report at a meeting in City Hall on Tuesday at 4.30pm.