IN their shirts and ties, they look like ordinary schoolchildren.

But Roma pupils at a city secondary have become Scotland’s latest cartoon heroes thanks to a graphic novel project which has supercharged their learning.

More than 20 youngsters from Romanian and Slovakian backgrounds teamed up with award-winning comic book duo Metaphrog after the pair became graphic novelists in residence at Holyrood Secondary in Glasgow.

After 20 sessions, the youngsters, aged from 12 to 17, have taken a giant leap forwards in their English reading and writing skills, confidence and more as they produced their own blockbusting Holyrood Stories book.

John Chalmers, writer of Metaphrog’s Louis series and fairytale adaptations, said: “The perception that graphic novels are trivial or less serious than maths or English is misled. Comics hook children in and from that the core activities benefit.”

Chalmers and artist partner Sandra Marrs were brought in after school librarian Fiona Kindness picked up on the pupils’ interest in creative activities. Most of the youngsters have spent just a year or two in Scotland and receive language help within the school, in which 60 tongues are spoken.

According to the Scottish Government Pupil Census, the number of learners for whom English is an additional language rose by 130% between 2012 and 2018.

Kindness said her pupils have been “much more confident” in speaking English as a result of the project, and are seen as “positive contributors” in the school. She said: “It’s raised their status and it’s been wonderful to see their personalities shine through. They’ve been enthusiastic, smiling and all helping each other. They’ve really bonded as a group and the differences have been noticed by their teachers.”

Twelve-year-old twins Ionela and Nicoleta Netoi drew on their love of animals and Edward Scissorhands for their contributions to Holyrood Stories.

The pair arrived from Romania two years ago but say learning in English is difficult. Ionela said: “I’m shy, and my sister is very shy about talking English. Learning to write and draw the comics has helped me do better in school. It’s strange to see my drawings in a book, but it’s a good strange.”

Marrs commented: “At first a lot of the pupils didn’t think they could do this. Within a few sessions, they suddenly realised they could. They gained a lot of confidence. A lot of them are just finding their feet in Scotland. Even though we told them many times they would be making a book, I don’t think they quite believed it until they saw it.”

Ian Lebeter, principal librarian for Glasgow’s secondary schools, said the project, funded through the national School Library Improvement Fund, was a way to reach pupils who could otherwise be “lost”. He said: “If we are going to reach these young people, going down the route of maths and English alone is very difficult. This allowed us to reach them in a non-traditional way. If we don’t do that, there’s a danger of leaving these really intelligent kids behind.”