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Ribale S. Haidar, k0913097, MA Design for Development DDM001: Visionning a Sustainable World, February 12,2009

according to the Refugee Council Report Beyond the school gates: supporting refugees and asylum seekers in secondary school.

refugees  underachieve at school


refugees underachieveat school

refugees underachieveat school

Who are refugees? Definition and difference between asylum seekers, refugees and migrants • Asylum seekers are persons who flee their homeland to another country. Their applications for asylum or refugee status are pending a final decision from the Home Office. • Refugees are persons who have proved that they would face persecution back home and have had a successful asylum application. • Migrants are persons who moved from their home country to another willingly.

source: The Refugee Council, The Truth About Asylum.

Who are refugees? Statistics about asylum seekers and refugees

Main destination countries of new asylum-seekers and refugees in 2007, 2008. source: UNHCR, 2008 Global Trends: Refugees, Asylum-seekers, Returnees, Internally Displaced and Stateless Persons.

Who are refugees? Statistics about asylum seekers and refugees

Population of refugees between 1996 and 2005 in the UK. source: 2005 UNHCR Statistical Yearbook, United Kingdom.

Who are refugees? Statistics about asylum seekers and refugees

Main origin countries arriving to the UK until 2005.

Main origin countries arriving to the UK in 2005. source: 2005 UNHCR Statistical Yearbook, United Kingdom.

refugees underachieveat school

refugees u  nderachieveat school

Why do they underachieve?

English as a second language

Lack of parental envolvement

Lack of teacher awareness


Cultural differences

Personal History (Trauma/Shock)

Difference in educational systems

Government policies

refugees underachieveat school

refugees underachieveat school

Who are the stakeholders? • Schools • Refugee Community Organizations (RCOs) • Refugee Students

What are the identified problems by each stakeholder and the solutions proposed by them?


Schools identified problems I’d say there are huge issues with these youngsters because the few that we have, everyone has needs, huge needs.

I’m not properly equipped to deal with this young man, thinking about his selfharming and, again, they’re all under pressure of being returned to countries.

I know every child matters, but when there are 850 of them, it’s extremely difficult to actually keep everyone at the forefront of your mind all the time.

The head teacher wants to change the demographics of the school - attracting more As, Bs and C1s. That is why we changed the uniform. They (the senior management team) don’t see refugees as improving school. That’s why we don’t want to go out of our way to support them, in case more want to come here. Each child presents its own set of needs and concerns. I would say… information is the biggest issue because if I could have a better picture, I suppose the assumption is, it’s a need to know basis.

One relies quite a lot on the pupil translating and that obviously doesn’t always work, particularly if the message that’s being given isn’t entirely a positive one.(When asked about parents who don’t speak English)

She got deported at 6 o’clock in the morning. So we just got this phone call that they were at Gatwick Airport so I just got some of her friends together and we went to the deportation lounge at Gatwick Airport to say goodbye to her. It was really traumatic.

proposed solutions Unfortunately you know, you do something wonderful and then you can’t sustain it because they pull the plug on the funding so, you know it’s very difficult.

But it’s possibly also having, a list you know, a pool of people who you know would do it. Because our languages are so varied. (When asked about having translators at school)

I think that school, and particularly secondary schools can be fairly intimidating places sometimes and I think we as schools need to look quite carefully at how we, at how we address that.

I also think it’s very important that the parents should be in contact [with the] school. And one of the things I think we need to do better as a school is to make it easy for parents to be involved.


RCOs identified problems So they explain their system which is complicated anyway and it would take a year to explain that not a few hours. So then you go there for nothing. (When asked about school training programs)

I also knew that they were having problem with homework support. So we set up the Saturday school to do that.

That’s where I think it would be very important if the school recognises the work the community is doing and if they work together, the ethnic minority communities and schools, the achievement would be better.

I think, just on the top of my head, training teacher on refugee issues would be help, a great help actually.

So it is, I think bullying is still, from my point of view, still an iceberg and many times children doesn’t have enough confidence to speak out about that for different reasons.

Sometime the parent they come so we have the project what is very successful, can you make it, they come so the last week, they said, ‘look it was very successful can you go again to [trip destination]?’ I said, ‘no I’m sorry we don’t have funding to go there’ because they was very happy there.

Yeah! Some children depending on where they come from it’s very difficult for them to sit down in the class because they don’t come from that world.

proposed solutions

And then maybe setting up a forum, afterward, where people can come in, you know, share ideas and exchange good practices.

In a successful cycle… young refugees, as well as other children, are encouraged to explore and share what makes them special, what talents they add to their classroom and community, and how they learn best…

We try to raise the awareness about bullying, that it is not right and because they couldn’t speak English they shouldn’t be subject to bullying and they should defend themselves.

Refugee students

Refugee students defined problems

As for friendship, I usually hang around with foreigners, I don’t hang around with the English that much. Some are very racist. When they are being racist, I cannot stand it and I start a fight.

When we have one she goes... she can’t actually speak English very well but we did go to parts evening I explained to her. (When asked if parents attend events at school)

Some think that way ’they live on our money, on our government’s money’, ’why are they getting the support we get?’

They did use to tease me, but they know if I hit them I would really hurt them, so they stopped.

If you have an argument people will name call and say ’shut up you asylum seeker’.

No, just in school. ’cause I live very far away... (When asked about meeting classmates outside of school.

Yeah they do ’em but... you have to pay for it by yourself. It’s lot of money. You can’t - they take you on... somewhere - somebody’s gone. I aren’t going. It’s not good. Don’t like it. (When asked about school trips)

I want to be normal. They don’t let you into French or German lessons ‘for your own good’ but then your friends ask why weren’t you in class?’

I ought to pray five times a day, but I don’t... I don’t always eat halal food. I don’t know where the meat at the cafeteria comes from!

I get free meal. All children were refugees and had to go and queue for 15 minutes, in front of schoo officer and other kids for a lunch. Children were embarrased.

Sometimes they say that what they don’t want is racism but by picking up some chidren and putting them in a different class that makes discrimination worse.

There the teacher just wrote things on the board. Here, you are sent to the library and asked to find things out.

I couldn’t travel with my football team because I didn’t have a decision from the Home Office.

Refugee students Educate all school children about refugees with the aim to raise awareness and create a positive image of refugees.

proposed solutions Have pictures that show the beautiful side of my country, that way otehr children will want to go there. Maybe have a room with these pictures

Message to the government - please give me a place in school and don’t treat another person as I was treated.

I can teach my classmates my language and they can teach me their language if they have one other than English or English.

You can have different food people can try in the canteen.

‘When we do something good it’s great to be told so. When my headmaster sent me a letter saying she was proud of the work experience I’d done I was so happy I cried’.

In my school one day they all said hello in French - that was really nice - they made me feel welcome.

(It) would be good to share with fellow asylum seekers – through conversations and reminiscence – organise meetings where everybody talks and listens to others’.

Maybe we can have a project with another school that has a lot of children from other countries... maybe we can meet them and become friends.

We need to produce a report or a documentary for the authorities to say that this is the opinion of the kids, not of the Children’s Society or the Refugee Education Team but of the children.

Re-defined Problem • While all the other stakeholders address ´big´ issues that relate to refugee students as a group, refugees themselves talk about everyday problems. • The problem to refugees is not about regulations, it is about smaller problems that are more relevant to each one´s personal experience. • New problem to be addressed: How to make each student´s everyday experience more pleasant to achieve well-being.

Proposed Solution A day in the life of a refugee student • Provide students with a set of stickers and timeline poster to fill in with their problems and solutions.







• Give the refugee students a private space to express their thoughts on their everyday experience to, during, and after school. • The stickers provided are used to guide their thoughts through the main issues that rise during their day. • The use of simple images and no explanation of each symbol leaves the decision to the students themselves making this an openended process. Proposed set of stickers food

Proposed solution Color-coding to add a new layer of meaning very important

• Four colors for each symbol not so important

• Color-coding to express the importance of the problem faced.

Dismissed Solutions Before reaching the final solution, two others usages of the poster were suggested but later dismissed. 1. Putting a poster up in each class on which each student can contribute when needed.

2. Organizing a workshop for refugee students to fill in the poster with their concerns.

Problems: • Intervention of other students, not refugees • A space for bullying and vandalism

Problems: • Students rushed by time to answer • Lack of privacy

Final Solution • Students receive a poster and set of stickers in a sleeve that can be stuck in their homework book. • This solution offers them the privacy and the confidentiality needed. • They cannot lose the poster and can keep it private from others. • As shown in the diagram below, they can take a poster from a teacher, the school´s social worker or the school´s psychiatrist, fill it in, then drop it in the appropriate boxes. • Or they can download it online, fill it in, then send it back to an anonymous school email.

Final Solution

Poster given out to the students, side 1

Final Solution

Poster given out to the students, side 2

Final Solution

social worker

school psychiatrist

give away a printed copy


Life Cycle of a poster

fill in


information gathered

fill in




meeting: discuss and act upon (head teacher, social worker, psychiatrist...)

Example of a poster

Example of poster: filling

I have to walk for an hour to get to school

Example of poster: filling

I have to walk for an hour to get to school

Make a new bus that can pick me up from home

Example of poster: filling

vida mahanit 13 Iran I have to walk for an hour to get to school

I cant attend french because im a refugee

I dont have friends to play with me

I cant attend french because im a refugee

I cant attend french because im a refugee

I cant attend french because im a refugee

Make a new bus that can pick me up from home

Make classes from everyone not just refugees.

tell students that refugees are nice people too

Make classes from everyone not just refugees.

Make classes from everyone not just refugees.

Make classes from everyone not just refugees.

My teacher said wrong things about my country

I cant attend french because im a refugee

I cant attend french because im a refugee

let students tell stories about their own country

Make classes from everyone not just refugees.

Make classes from everyone not just refugees.


Example of completed poster

Next Stage • Schools can adopt the solution without the need of an official involvement. • Schools can propose changes to better the application of the solution and make it more effective.

In my Shoes: A Day in the Life of a Refugee Student  

This presentation accompanied a detailed report studying the situation of refugee children in the UK and the reasons behind their underachie...

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