The principals of multi-ethnic schools say 'ghettoisation' is taking root among newcomer communities in Ireland.

They have warned of apathy and disengagement developing among the children of immigrants as a result of recent cuts in English language services in their schools.

Five school principals appeared before told the Dáil's Joint Committee on Education this morning.

The committee heard warnings that children were becoming frustrated and developing a dislike for school as a result of the cuts.

The five school principals represent schools where up to 90% and more of pupils have immigrant parents.

They called for a range of additional measures to be targeted at multi-ethnic schools.

Top of their list and needed as a matter of urgency, they say, are more English language supports.

They were also critical of enrolment policies, which they said were making it difficult for the children of immigrant parents to find a school place.

However, out of 15 members of the committee just four attended fully to hear the principals speak. Fine Gael's Ulick Burke said he was embarrassed by the low attendance.

Committee Chairman Paul Gogarty said the absence of Fianna Fáil TDs beggared belief.

Of seven Fianna Fáil members just one, Cecilia Keaveney, attended briefly. Ms Keaveney then returned after attention had been drawn to the low attendance.

Afterwards, one school principal told RTÉ News they were stunned by the low attendance.