Supporting refugee pupils: New guidance published

Written by: Pete Henshaw | Published:
Image: Adobe Stock

Schools are being offered guidance and research-based ideas and approaches to help develop sustainable education and pastoral provision for refugee pupils.

″Look at all the things that I am capable of, and think of all the things you could call me – a student, a lover of literature, a budding architect, a friend, a symbol of hope even, but what am I called? A refugee.”
Refugee Boy, Benjamin Zephaniah

The Bell Foundation, a charity offering resources for schools to support the education of children who use English as an additional language, has published new guidance entitled “Recommendations for sustainable provision in schools, for children who are refugees”.

A year ago, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine caused the largest population movement in Europe since the Second World War. At the same time, the UK is also seeing refugees arriving from Afghanistan, Hong Kong, Syria, and other countries. And of course, this includes many children whose education will have been interrupted.

The new guidance has been drawn up to help schools create environments in which refugee children feel safe, feel they belong, and have opportunities to succeed academically and beyond.

The evidence shows that new refugee and asylum-seeking learners can be an asset to their school, helping to develop compassion and greater cultural knowledge and awareness and bringing with them rich linguistic resources, life and learning experience.

However, the research also shows that refugee children’s previous experiences and reasons for fleeing their home can affect their wellbeing and education in the UK (Gladwell & Chetwynd, 2018).

The recommendations in the guidance are based around an “...orientation towards viewing each new arrival in terms of what they bring, as well as what they need” (McIntyre & Abrams, 2021). It asks two key questions:

  • How can school leaders, whose schools are welcoming refugee children, invest in resources that will ensure sustainable outcomes?
  • How can they lead whole school policy development and provision to ensure there is quality teaching and learning for all learners in their school?

The guidance focuses on refugee learners, but the recommendations and actions are equally applicable and relevant for those seeking asylum. It also advises on potential sources of funding for schools but offers tips for accessing resources and training that are freely available, too.

Diana Sutton, director of The Bell Foundation said: “Although some schools have experience of welcoming and empowering refugee and asylum-seeking children through providing tailored support and education, for other schools this will be the first time.

Many schools have contacted us requesting support and guidance on how todevelop and embed appropriate systems, classroom practices and staff training to ensure both the academic and wellbeing needs of refugee learners are fully met.

It was clear from these contacts that many schools had little prior knowledge, experience and skills, and limited provision, systems, and processes in place. What was also clear was the lack of information and clarity on what funding was available, who is entitled to this funding, and how it is being or could be spent.”

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