‘New to Vienna’ classes for refugee children

Schools in Vienna are setting up separate classes for refugee children, to help them learn German and European values and give them extra support for maths and literacy.

'New to Vienna' classes for refugee children
A class with 12 different nationalities at the Amstetten business academy. Photo: HaK Amstetten

Currently there are around 10,000 refugee children attending school in Austria, and 2,000 of these are in Vienna.

Ten ‘New to Vienna’ classes, specially designed for refugees, are available in Vienna and there are plans to set up four more. The classes are taught in German and supported by teachers who speak the refugees’ mother-language.

18 refugee students have been accepted at a Middle School in Döbling. Headmaster Werner Zimmer told ORF radio that the students are learning German very quickly and he hopes that some will soon be ready to switch to a regular class. The school will hold project days and sports events to help promote integration.

The conservative People’s Party (ÖVP) has praised the initiative, with Vienna ÖVP leader Gernot Blümel saying that it’s “the only way to make sure that children are ready to attend regular classes”.

Education spokesperson for the Greens, Harald Walser, said that the classes made sense as a first step but must not become an “emergency measure” and that schools “must ensure they are preparing children for the fastest possible transfer into regular classes”.

Schools in Lower Austria introduced special classes for refugee children last autumn.

The Amstetten business academy has a “transition class” for 15 refugee children but school director Brigitte Bartmann said that such classes are not without challenges: “We don’t have suitable teaching materials and the student’s level of education varies widely. Some have only been to school for a year and others are close to Matura level. With the majority it’s not even possible to communicate in English.”

She said that it was unlikely that most of the students would be ready to join regular classes at the business school next year.


Diversity and jobs: How migrants contribute to Vienna’s economy

International business owners in Vienna bring in billions of euros in revenue and taxes each year, according to a recent survey by the Chamber of Commerce.

Diversity and jobs: How migrants contribute to Vienna's economy

New figures show that Vienna’s international entrepreneurs do more than simply boost diversity in Austria’s capital city – they also significantly contribute to the local economy.

The Wirtschaftskammer (Chamber of Commerce) has revealed that business owners in Vienna with a migration background generate € 8.3 billion in revenue and create around 45,500 jobs.

Plus, these companies pay around € 3.7 billion every year in taxes and duties, reports ORF.

READ MORE: Austrian presidential elections: Why 1.4 million people can’t vote

Walter Ruck, President of the Vienna Chamber of Commerce, said: “Companies with a migrant background not only enrich the diversity of the corporate landscape in Vienna, they are also an economic factor.”

Ruck added that more than 200 international companies move to the capital each year and said the diversity is helping Vienna to financially recover from the pandemic. 

The Chamber of Commerce considers a business owner to have a migration background if they were not born in Austria and/or they have a non-Austrian nationality.

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According to ORF, there are 34,000 entrepreneurs in Vienna with a migration background and 7,400 of those business owners have Austrian citizenship.

Additionally, 4,500 business owners have Slovakian nationality, 3,800 are from Romania and 2,600 have German citizenship.

The most popular business sector for people in Vienna with a migration background is retail, followed by real estate and technical services.