The Association of Secondary Teachers in Ireland has said it is disappointed and concerned by the lack of action from the Department of Education to ensure children are integrated in Irish schools.

In a policy document, the ASTI said it appeared that no unit in the department was responsible for ensuring that the National Action Plan Against Racism is implemented in schools.

The ASTI says the integration of students from other countries in Irish schools has been very successful. But it says better leadership is needed from the department.

In other European countries, schools have been the catalyst for bitter debates between cultures and ethnic groups around issues like school dress codes.

The ASTI says the department needs to provide advice and guidance on how to respond to these cultural challenges.

The biggest challenge remains language, and the secondary teachers union says more language support teachers are essential.

At present, newcomer students get two hours of English lessons per week, and can spend the rest of their time in regular classes struggling to understand. Teachers providing these lessons only get one day's training.

The ASTI says this is completely inadequate, and said students should get a full time immersion course in English until they are up to standard. This, it says, will require additional resources.

The Department of Education has responded by saying current policy does back teachers in areas such as language support.

Minister for Education Mary Hanafin says she does not agree with calls for a doubling of the number of special language teachers.