Supporting asylum seeker and refugee students – new developments

Supporting asylum seeker and refugee students – new developments

Written by: Shiraz Chakera

Last month, the General Teaching Council’s Achieve network held its largest event so far, a conference looking at issues related to supporting asylum seeker and refugee students.

Sixty delegates attended the conference in London on 11 May 2005 and a similar number had to be turned away due to the high demand. The agenda for the day cut across research, policy and practice.

Professor Madeleine Arnot and Dr Halleli Pinson presented detailed findings from forthcoming research funded by the General Teaching Council (GTC). They explored the national and local responses to asylum seeker and refugee students. The research found a limited focus on supporting these students at the national level, leaving local education authorities (LEAs) and schools to develop a range of working practices themselves. In their survey and their interviews with 58 LEAs, the researchers found six models of practice in supporting asylum seeker and refugee students:

  • EAL model – The support offered to these students and the data monitoring undertaken is aimed at improving their English.
  • Holistic model – The primary aim of the policy, of data collection and of the support system is to contribute to the social inclusion of these students, their well-being and their development.
  • Minority Ethnic model – LEAs which adopt this approach support these students within the framework of ‘raising achievement’ and school improvement.
  • New arrival model – Policy and support systems focus on school admission and the induction of these students.
  • Race equality model – The main focus is raising the awareness of cultural differences and the vulnerability of these students in that respect
  • Vulnerable children model – Support is organised to ensure these students’ access to education and to make available to them information about their rights and the services they are entitled to.

The researchers noted that they did not know what the impact of the different types of models had on the well-being and learning of young asylum-seekers and refugees. In a subsequent discussion session, delegates reflected on which model closely related to their own practice.


In another presentation, resources that have recently become available were introduced, drawing on the GTC’s resources file on asylum seeker and refugee students, which was recently updated by Bill Bolloten. Shola Emmanuel talked about the QCA’s New Arrivals website.

In the afternoon, Bill Bolloten spoke about the changing policy environment and the opportunities and challenges for those that teach and care for asylum seeker and refugee students. Bill spoke about the Every Child Matters policy agenda, which is aimed at making social, health and education services work together. Bill highlighted the diverse needs of asylum seekers and refugees and noted that it would be up to health, social care and education professionals to adapt their practices to ensure every child really does matter.

Finally, there were two presentations highlighting effective practice. Sofia Ali spoke about the work she has been developing in schools in the London Borough of Barnet. Dedicated time has been allocated to induct asylum seekers and refugees and other new arrivals into the English classroom. The work she is undertaking covers language, culture and core curriculum areas and it is having a positive impact on the results of asylum seekers and refugees in secondary schools.

Then Carolyn Herbert talked about ‘A Welcome Experience’, a project developed in primary schools in the London Borough of Westminster. This project and an accompanying workbook were developed by Carolyn in order to create a welcoming, safe and enjoyable experience for all the students in a school, which was seen as particularly important for young people who have come from distant countries, often leaving loved ones behind and having traumatic experiences.

For more information about any of these projects or resources, please visit the Achieve network website.

Related links

General Teaching Council – Achieve Network

More information on the conference

Shiraz Chakera works for the General Teaching Council for England, the professional body for teaching.

The Institute of Race Relations is precluded from expressing a corporate view: any opinions expressed are therefore those of the authors.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.