By the Hampshire EMTAS Specialist Teacher Advisors
1077 pupils, 60 languages, 70 countries of origin; 2021-22 has been a year like no other. In this blog, we reflect on the highlights of a very busy academic year and share some of the things schools can look forward to after the summer. Notably we discuss our response to our refugee arrivals and Unaccompanied Asylum-Seeking Children, review our SEND work, examine how our research projects are progressing, feedback on our GTRSB work, give an update of developments around the Young Interpreter Scheme, ECT programme and Persona Dolls and celebrate the end of support for Heritage Language GCSEs for this academic year. EMTAS Team Leader Michelle Nye concludes this blog with congratulations, farewells and an update around staffing.
Response to refugee arrivals
As we post this blog, 275 refugee arrivals have been referred to Hampshire EMTAS in 2021-22. These pupils predominantly arrived from Afghanistan and Ukraine with a small number coming from other countries such as El Salvador, Pakistan and Syria. EMTAS welcomed new Bilingual Assistant colleagues to support pupils speaking Ukrainian, Dari/Farsi and Pashto and a lot of work went into supporting and upskilling practitioners in catering for the needs of new refugee arrivals. We delivered a series of online network meetings where colleagues from across Hampshire joined members of the EMTAS Specialist Teacher Advisor team to find out more about suitable provision. We launched a new area on Moodle to share supporting guidance and resources. We published two blogs – Welcoming refugee children and their families and From Kabul to a school in Basingstoke – Maryam’s story. And we added two new language phonelines to our offer, covering Russian and Pashto/Dari/Farsi.
In the Autumn term you can look forward to further dates for network meetings focussing on how to meet the needs of refugee new arrivals. There will also be sessions where we will explore practice and provision in relation to catering for the needs of pupils who are in the early stages of acquiring English as an Additional Language (EAL). In addition to this, we are planning a blog in which we will interview our new Ukrainian-speaking Bilingual Assistant to share with you the specificities of working with Ukrainian children. The team is also working alongside colleagues from HIAS and HIEP to collate FAQs from queries and observations related to asylum seekers and refugees who have recently arrived into Hampshire.
Unaccompanied Asylum-Seeking Children (UASC)
It’s been a busier than usual year for UASC new arrivals too, with 11 young people being referred to us having made long and dangerous journeys to the UK on their own. They have travelled from countries such as Sudan, Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan and Eritrea and speak a variety of languages including Arabic, Kurdish Sorani, Tigrinya and Pashto. The majority have been placed in schools outside of Hampshire and so have been profiled remotely, but some are now attending Hampshire schools meaning that we have been able to visit them in person. There is lots of advice available for schools receiving UASC onto their school roll on our website. This includes detailed good practice guidance and Welcome to Hampshire (an information guide written for the young people) translated into several key languages with audio versions also available.
The SEND phone line run by Lisa Kalim continues to be well used by schools as their initial point of contact with EMTAS when they have concerns about a pupil with EAL and suspect that they may have additional needs. There have been almost 100 calls made on this line to date this academic year. After school tends to be the busiest time so if you can ring earlier, it may be easier to get through first time. It is helpful to have first read the information on our website about steps to take when concerned that a pupil with EAL may also have SEND and to have gathered the information suggested in the sample form for recording concerns before calling. In many cases advice can be given over the phone without the need for a teacher advisor visit to the school. However, for others a visit by one of our Teacher Advisors can be arranged. This year, our Teacher Advisors have been especially busy with this aspect of our work and have completed over 60 visits since September. These have focused on establishing whether individual pupils may have additional needs as well as EAL or not and also on the enhanced profiling of those for whom a school will be submitting a request for assessment for an EHCP.
It’s been a catch-up sort of year for Sarah Coles, with a delayed start to her data collection due to Covid affecting the normal transition programmes schools have for children due to start in Year R in September. Through the Autumn, Spring and Summer terms, Sarah has made visits to schools to work with the eleven children who are involved in her research. The children are either Polish or Nepali heritage and they were all born in the UK. This means they have not experienced a monolingual start to life, hence Sarah’s interest in them and their language development.
The children have talked about their experiences of living in two languages – although as it turns out they’ve had very little to say about this. Code-switching is very much the norm for them and having skills in two languages at such a young age seems to be nothing remarkable or noteworthy in their eyes. They’ve also done story-telling activities in their home languages and in English, once in the autumn term and again in the summer. This will enable comparisons to be made in terms of their language development as they’ve gone through their first year of full time compulsory schooling in the UK.
Early findings suggest big differences between the two language groups. The Nepali children tend to prefer to respond in English and most have not been confident to use Nepali despite all demonstrating that they understand this language when it’s used to address them. This has been the case whether they are more isolated – the only child who has access to Nepali in their class - or part of a larger group of children in the same class who share Nepali as a home language. In contrast, the Polish children have all been much more confident to speak Polish, responding in that language when it’s used to address them as readily as they use English when spoken to in that language. This has been the case whether they’re more isolated at school or part of a bigger cohort of children.
The field work ends in the summer with final interviews with the children’s parents and teachers. Sarah then has a year to write up her findings, submit her thesis and plan how best to share what she’s learned with colleagues in schools.
Young Interpreter news
This academic year Astrid Dinneen launched the Young Interpreter Champion initiative. Young Interpreter Champions are EAL consultants outside Hampshire who are accredited by Hampshire EMTAS to support schools in their area in running the Young Interpreter Scheme according to its intended ethos. Currently 6 Local Authorities are in our directory with more colleagues enquiring about joining.
Established Young Interpreter Champions met on Teams in the Summer term to find out how the Young Interpreter Scheme is developing in participating Local Authorities and to plan forward for 2022-23. They also heard more about Debra Page’s research on the Young Interpreter Scheme under the supervision of the Centre for Literacy and Multilingualism at the University of Reading and with Hampshire EMTAS as a collaborative partner.
The aim of Debra’s research is to evaluate the scheme’s impact on children’s language use, empathy and cultural awareness by comparing Young Interpreter children and non-interpreter children. Her third and final wave of data collection took place during the Autumn term 2021. This year is dedicated to analysing her data and writing her PhD thesis. Her chapter on empathy and the Young Interpreter Scheme is complete and she will soon write a summary about this in a future Young Interpreters Newsletter. She also looks forward to sharing results of what is found out in terms of intercultural awareness and language use.
It has been a very busy year for the GRT team. Firstly, we will be moving towards using the more inclusive term of Gypsy, Travellers, Roma, Showmen and Boaters – GTRSB when referring to our communities.
As usual our two Traveller Support Workers Julie Curtis and Steve Clark have been out and about supporting GTRSB pupils in schools. The feedback they receive from schools and families is very positive. The pupils look forward to their opportunity to talk about how things are going and they value having someone listen to them and help sort out any issues. Our Traveller team lead Helen Smith has been meeting with families, pupils and schools to discuss many issues including attendance, transport, exclusions, elective home education (EHE), relationships and sex education, admissions and attainment.
Helen, Sarah Coles and Claire Barker have also been working on an exciting project to help schools support their GTRSB pupils with the Key Stage 1 and 2 compulsory relationship curriculum. The team have created two books that follow Mary-Kate and Jesse as they navigate their way through the issues surrounding growing up safely. The book has been written in consultation with members of the Romany, Irish Traveller and Showmen communities and is currently with an artist who is working on the book’s illustrations.
Helen has been lucky enough to work with some members from Futures4Fairground who have advised us on best practice when including Showmen in our Cultural Awareness Training. Members of the F4F team also attended and contributed to our schools’ network meeting and to our GTRSB practitioners’ cross-border meeting.
The team was busy in June encouraging schools to celebrate GRT History Month. We devised activities and collated resources around the theme of ‘homes and belonging’. Helen attended an event to celebrate GRTHM at The University of Sussex. It was aimed at all professionals involved in working with members from all GTRSB communities in educational settings. It was encouraging to see so many professionals attending. Helen particularly enjoyed watching a performance of Crystal’s Vardo by Friends, Family and Travellers.
Sarah and Helen have been making plans for celebrating World Funfair Month in September. We have already put some ideas together for schools on our website and hope to develop them further with help from our friends at Future4Funfairs.
Looking forward to next year, as well as reviewing our GRT Excellence Award, we will be looking at how best to encourage and support our schools to take the GTRSB pledge for schools - improving access, retention and outcomes in education for Gypsies, Travellers, Roma, Showmen and Boaters. Schools that complete our Excellence Award should then be in a position to sign the pledge and confirm their commitment to improving the education for all their GTRSB families.
Early Career Teachers (ECT) programme
The Initial Teacher/Early Career Teacher programme that Lynne Chinnery is preparing for next academic year is really coming together. After a large proportion of student teachers stated they were still uncertain how to support their EAL learners after completing their training programmes (Foley et al, 2018), the EMTAS team decided to do something about it.
Lynne has collated a set of slides to train student and early career teachers on best practice for EAL learners by breaking down the theory and looking at practical ways to implement it in the classroom. The sessions cover such areas as supporting learners who are new to English; strategies to help students access the curriculum; assessing and tracking the progress of EAL learners; and information on the latest resources/ICTs and where to find them.
The programme has been made as interactive as possible in order to reinforce learning, with training that practices what it preaches. For example, it provides opportunities for group discussions that build on the trainees' previous experiences. The trainees can then try out the strategies they have learnt once they are back in the classroom.
Lynne Chinnery has already used the slides on a SCITT training programme and the feedback from that was both positive and useful. One part the students particularly enjoyed and commented on was being taught a mini lesson in another language so that they were literally placed in the position of a new-to-English learner. This term, Lynne and Sarah Coles have met with an artist who is designing the graphics for the training slides - once again demonstrating a feature of EAL good practice: the importance of visuals to convey a message. The focus in the autumn term will be a reflective journal for student teachers to use alongside the training sessions.
Heritage Language GCSEs
This has been a particularly busy year for us supporting students with the Heritage Language GCSEs. We received 136 requests from 32 schools. We provided support for Arabic, Cantonese, German, Greek, Italian, Mandarin, Polish, Portuguese, Russian and Turkish. For the first time this year, we also supported a student with the Persian GCSE.
The details of the packages of support we will be offering next year will be shared with you in the Autumn term. You can also check our website. Remember to get your referrals in to us in good time!
We wish all students good luck as they await their results! A big thank you to Jamie Earnshaw for leading on this huge area of work. Sadly Jamie is leaving at the end of the Summer term. Claire Barker returns from retirement to take over the co-ordination of Heritage Language GCSEs from September.
Persona doll revamp
Persona Dolls are a brilliant resource which provide a wonderful opportunity to encourage some of our youngest learners to explore similarities and differences between people and communities. They allow children time to explore their own culture and learn about the culture of someone else. The EMTAS team currently have around 20 Persona Dolls, all of which come with their own identity, books and resources from their culture to share and celebrate.
Now some of you may have noticed that our Persona Dolls have been enjoying a little hiatus recently. What you will not have seen is all the work that is currently going on behind the scenes in our effort to revamp them. Within our plans we aim to provide better training for schools so that you as practitioners feel more confident in using them within your classrooms. Kate Grant is also looking at ways to incorporate technology so that you can have easier access to supporting guidance, links to learn more about the doll’s heritage and space to share the experience your school has of working with our Persona Dolls. EMTAS know that our schools recognise the value of this wonderful resource and look forward to seeing the positive impact they will have on their return.
Finally, a conclusion by Team Leader Michelle Nye
The last time EMTAS topped 1000 referrals was 7 years ago so it has been one of the busiest years we have experienced in quite a while. This was due to the exceptional number of refugee referrals and to a spike in Malayalam referrals whose families have come to work in our hospitals. On top of this we had over 120 new arrival referrals from Hong Kong; these children are here as part of the British Hong Kong Nationals Overseas Programme.
EMTAS recruited additional bilingual staff and welcome Sayed Kazimi (Pashto/Dari/Farsi), Tsheten Lama-North (Nepali), Kubra Behrooz (Dari), Tommy Thomas (Malayalam), Jenny Lau (Cantonese) and Olha Herhel (Ukrainian) to the team.
We are delighted that schools have been committed to improving their EAL and GRT practice and provision and have achieved an EMTAS EAL or GRT Excellence Award this year. Congratulations to St Swithun Wells, Bramley CE Primary, St James Primary, Marchwood Infant, New Milton Infant, St John the Baptist (Winchester District), Bentley Primary, St Peters Catholic Primary, Swanmore College, Poulner Junior, Grayshott CofE Primary, The Herne Primary, Wellington Community Primary, Marlborough Infants, John Hanson, Fleet Infants, Fairfields Primary, Swanmore CofE Primary, Brookfield Community School, Fernhill School, New Milton Junior Elvetham Heath and Red Barn Primary.
We say goodbye to Jamie Earnshaw, Specialist Teacher Advisor, who has been with EMTAS since 2012. During his ten-year tenure, his work has included producing the late arrival guidance on our website, developing our Accessing the curriculum through first language: student training programme now available for pupils in both primary and secondary phases, and for leading on our Heritage Language GCSE work. His are big shoes to fill and we will miss him immensely; we wish him every success in his new venture.
Enjoy your summer holiday and see you again in September.
Data correct as of 30.06.2022
Word cloud generated on WordArt.com
By EMTAS Specialist Teacher Advisor Lisa Kalim
Following last summer’s military evacuation of families from
Afghanistan and a subsequent period in temporary hotel accommodation, many of
these refugees are now permanently settled in Hampshire. The families have been able to start the
process of building new lives for themselves.
For the children an important part of this has been starting school and
being able to attend regularly. This
blog describes the experiences of nine-year-old Maryam as she left Afghanistan and
how her new school in Basingstoke helped her to settle in and subsequently begin
Maryam was airlifted by the British military from Kabul airport on the 26th of August 2021, together with her parents and two younger brothers. Her father had previously worked as an interpreter for the British army for several years and was therefore fearful that the whole family would become a target for the Taliban if they remained in Afghanistan.
The decision to leave their home was a sudden one. Maryam was woken in the middle of the night and told to put a few things into a small backpack. Shocked, she hastily packed a few clothes and a bottle of water, grabbed her favourite necklace and then they were picked up by a family friend who had a car. He drove them as close to the airport as he could get and then dropped them off – the roads close to the airport were all blocked by vehicles and large numbers of people on foot who were packed tightly together. It took Maryam and her family several hours to get near to the airport perimeter. By this time, it was starting to get light. Then they had to join the crush to get through the gate and try to work their way towards the front where soldiers were checking papers and making decisions about who could get a place on a flight and who would be left behind. It was incredibly difficult to move forwards because there were so many people and there was no space to move. Maryam was terrified that she would be separated from her family and never find them again. They gradually inched their way forwards, managing to stay together, but many more hours passed and they were still nowhere near the front. It was really hot and there was no shade. They hadn’t brought any food with them, so they were all hungry. There were no toilets. They spent the rest of the day in the crush and into the following evening. Just as it was starting to get dark, there was a loud explosion behind them and they could see smoke rising from just outside the airport close to where they had been earlier. This was shortly followed by the sound of ambulance sirens. Maryam felt numb inside – what was happening to her didn’t seem real, she felt like she was in a movie.
Eventually, sometime in the night, they reached the front. Maryam watched as her father waved his papers at the soldiers, desperately trying to get their attention. He had to keep trying for quite a while but at last a soldier took his papers, examined them and then let the whole family through. They were taken to a runway where they had to wait for several more hours before boarding a military plane. Once they were aboard Maryam quickly fell asleep only waking when the plane touched down in the UK.
Once they had left the plane, they were told to get on a bus that was waiting for them just outside the airport. Maryam had no idea where they were going. She looked out of the window and found that everything looked very different to what she was used to. She was not sure if she was going to like living in England.
Three months later Maryam and her family were finally able to move from their temporary hotel room to their permanent accommodation in Basingstoke. It was such a relief to be out of the hotel and to have their own safe space at last. For the first time in her life Maryam had a bedroom to herself. She was delighted to discover that it even had a small desk and a chair that she could use to study at home. It had been several years since Maryam had been able to attend school in Afghanistan due to it being too dangerous – the Taliban often targeted girls’ schools as they did not support education for girls or women. There had been many attacks aimed at schools where bombs had exploded resulting in children being injured or killed in the province that Maryam’s family came from. Her father had reluctantly decided that it was safer to keep Maryam at home. He tried his best to continue her education by teaching her at home when he was not working but this was not possible every day. In fact, Maryam was one of the lucky ones in terms of being able to access at least some education as about 40% of children in Afghanistan are not able to attend school at all.
Shortly after moving into her new home Maryam was hugely excited to find out that she had been given a school place at her local primary school. She had walked past it a few times on the way to the shops so knew what it looked like on the outside but had no idea what it would be like inside or what kind of lessons she would have. Then she started to worry about how she would understand what her teacher was saying because she didn’t know much English. Her father told her that they had been invited in to speak to school staff and that she would find out more then. He said that he was sure that they would do everything they could to help her and that she should try not to worry.
A few days later Maryam and her father visited her new school. They had a good look around the whole school with Maryam’s father acting as an interpreter so that Maryam could understand everything that was being said. Maryam was amazed at how different it was compared to her old school in Afghanistan. The classrooms themselves were much bigger and there were only about 30 children in each class. She had been used to smaller classroom sizes with up to about 60 children in each, packed in very close together. There were no individual desks – instead the children sat in groups around tables. Maryam was puzzled to see that not all of them faced the front. There were lots of pictures and children’s work on the walls – this made it seem much brighter and more colourful than what she was used to. All the classrooms had large electronic screens on the walls at the front and Maryam saw teachers using these to show their pupils lots of different things – back in Afghanistan her teachers had just had a board at the front that they wrote on, and the pupils had to copy what they wrote into their exercise books. Maryam didn’t see this happening here and wondered how she would know what her teacher wanted her to do. Another strange thing that she noticed was that for quite a lot of the time the children were talking amongst themselves whilst doing some writing in class – this would not have been allowed in Afghanistan and if you were caught talking, you would be punished.
Maryam was introduced to her teacher and was told which classroom would be hers. The teacher explained what Maryam would need to bring to school each day and where she could hang her coat and bag. She also showed her where to line up in the morning and told what time she had to be there and when school finished. Maryam was surprised that the school day was so long in Basingstoke – back in Afghanistan her school day had only been about three and a half hours long with another shift of children arriving in the afternoon. However, she felt reassured that she knew what to expect. Most importantly she had also been shown where the toilets were as she had been worrying about not being able to ask about this. Maryam was also introduced to a girl called Isobel who was going to be her ‘buddy’ on her first day. She seemed very friendly, and Maryam felt happier knowing that she wouldn’t be left on her own.
The next day Maryam started at her new school. She felt a strange mixture of excitement and nervousness but visiting the school the day before had helped her to feel less worried than she would have been if she hadn’t already had the opportunity to visit the school.
Unbeknown to her the school had been busy preparing for her arrival. They had identified some actions that they could take and strategies that they could use to best support Maryam as she started her full-time education in the UK. They ensured that Maryam was placed in her correct chronological year group, Year 5, and her teacher made sure that she was included in the same types of activities that the other children were doing in class, but with appropriate differentiation and lots of peer support. She was placed in a middle ability group with children who would be able to assist her if needed and who could provide her with good models of English. They understood that withdrawing her from the classroom for interventions or to ‘teach her English’ would not be a helpful approach and that what she needed was to follow ‘normal’ school routines as far as possible. They were also very mindful that Maryam had been through a very traumatic experience in the way she left Afghanistan. She had also had to leave almost everything behind in terms of possessions, extended family and friends at very short notice to move to an unfamiliar country where her family knew no-one. Because of this, the school decided that initially their focus should be on providing excellent pastoral care, ensuring that Maryam settled into the school well and was happy rather than concentrating on her academic attainment and progress (which could be addressed later).
The school also considered cultural differences and how these might affect Maryam at school. One area where they felt this could be relevant was around the school’s PE kit and changing facilities. Mindful that Maryam would most likely not feel comfortable changing for PE in front of boys they ensured that she had a private area in which to change and also allowed her to wear long track suit trousers instead of shorts for PE.
The school was also very aware of the importance of finding out as much as possible about Maryam’s background including details of her previous schooling and her skills in her first language, Pashto. The school therefore put in a referral to EMTAS soon after Maryam joined the school so that profiling could be carried out. They also kept in regular contact with Maryam’s father to ensure that there was good home-school communication.
It’s still early days in terms of how long Maryam has been in school in the UK but the early signs are good. She seems to have settled and is joining in with class activities non-verbally. Her teacher has high expectations of her going forward. Her father reports that although she is finding school very tiring, she is enjoying attending.
Hampshire EMTAS have advice and guidance about refugees and
asylum seekers on our website here. We have also produced a comprehensive good
practice guide which schools receiving refugees and asylum
seekers in Hampshire will find useful. There are more resources on our Moodle.
In this blog, the Hampshire EMTAS Teacher Team considers what best practice might look like in relation to catering for the needs of refugee children on roll in Hampshire Schools.
In recent months, Hampshire has hosted a number of refugee families from Afghanistan, some of whom will remain in the county permanently whilst others will eventually be found a permanent home elsewhere. The children of these refugee families are starting to be taken onto roll at schools across the county, and this has raised a number of questions as colleagues have sought advice on how best to streamline support at this vital point in the children’s lives.
First and foremost, at the point of referral to EMTAS it has become apparent that not everyone is confident when it comes to telling the difference between an asylum seeker and a refugee. To cut to the chase, the term refugee is widely used to describe displaced people all over the world but legally in the UK a person is a refugee only when the Home Office has accepted their asylum claim. While a person is waiting for a decision on their claim, he or she is called an asylum seeker. Some asylum seekers will later become refugees if their claims for asylum are successful.
The recently-arrived Afghan refugee children are here with their families and because of this they benefit from greater continuity in terms of support from their primary care-givers. Unaccompanied Asylum-Seeking Children (UASC), on the other hand, are minors who are here on their own and therefore don’t have the support of their close families. UASC are accommodated in the care system in the UK but their status in the longer term remains in question. They will be claiming asylum, which – if they are successful – will give them indefinite leave to remain and refugee status. This will give them the right to live permanently in the UK and to pursue higher education and/or work in the UK. Check the EMTAS guidance for more detail on this point.
Moving on to talk about refugees, in many ways the needs of
refugee children are very similar to those of any other international new
arrival, hence staff in schools should, in the main, adopt the same EAL good
practice with these children as they would any others. There are, however, some additional things to
bear in mind.
Refugee children (as well as UASC) may have had to leave their country of origin suddenly, bringing with them very few of their personal belongings and leaving much behind. Because of this, some may experience a greater sense of loss than children whose move to the UK was undertaken in a more planned way. Some refugee children will have left behind members of their extended families as well as friends, favourite toys and pets (where keeping pets is part of their culture), and may be concerned for their safety or not know their whereabouts or even if they are alive. This can be compounded by having little opportunity to communicate with them to check if they’re OK. Older children are likely to be more aware of and affected by this than younger ones, and their awareness may be heightened by conversations within their household as parents talk about and begin to process the events that brought them here.
Some refugee children will have experienced unplanned interruptions to their education, especially those who have spent time in refugee camps en route to the UK or those who have travelled with their families through various countries. Lack of facilities might mean that some have missed opportunities to keep up with their learning, hence there may be gaps. The longer the gap, the more they will have missed – hardly rocket science, but something to bear in mind when thinking about reasons why a child’s reading and writing skills may not be as secure as would normally be expected. The advice with this would be to clarify each child’s education history with parents and then to consider what arrangements might be put in place to help plug any gaps – without causing them to miss even more eg through ill-timed/too many withdrawal interventions (see EMTAS Position Statement on Withdrawal Provision for learners of EAL).
For most refugee children, routine really helps. They benefit from knowing what each school day will hold, so things like visual timetables are helpful. They also benefit from being supported to quickly develop a sense of belonging in their new school. Use buddies – including trained Young Interpreters – to support them as they adjust to their new surroundings. Bear in mind that the less-structured times such as break and lunch times can be more difficult for a newly-arrived refugee child, so check that they are being included and are joining in with play with other children. Teachers may find it helpful to teach some playground games in the relative safety and calm of the classroom, with input and support from other children in their class, with the idea that these games can then transfer to the outside areas.
Support from their peers will be key to the induction and integration of a newly-arrived refugee child. Sit them with peers who can be good learning, behaviour and language role models. Try to match them with peers who are of similar cognitive ability. Remember to reward all children involved with praise where things have gone well eg if they have shown the new arrival their book or repeated an instruction or the new arrival has accepted support from a peer or tried to involve themselves in a task or whatever. With younger learners, consider using a Persona Doll to explore ways of supporting the new arrival with your class.
When it comes to accessing the curriculum, remember the benefits of using first language both to aid access and engagement and to give the child a sense of the value of the L1 skills they bring with them. Use of L1 can be a great way of involving parents too, so make sure you think of ways they can support – perhaps helping their child look up key words or using Wikipedia in other languages to research a topic. If you have a literate child in your class, encourage them to write in L1 and explore how translation tools can be used to build a dialogue with the child and give them the skills to communicate their ideas with others in accessible ways. Many translation tools have an audio component too, so even children who can’t read very well in L1 can benefit from their use in the classroom. For more information about translation tools, see ‘Use of ICT’ on the EMTAS Moodle.
The biggest issues often relate not to language barriers but to culture; there are lots of things we take for granted to be commonly understood, shared experiences which for refugee children will be new, alien. These can include experiences of teaching and learning, for instance a didactic approach wherein the teacher conveys knowledge to the empty vessels that are their charges may have been the norm in country of origin. People whose schooling embodied this sort of approach may find learning through play or learning through engaging in dialogue with others very ‘foreign’; uncomfortably new territory they need to negotiate without any prior experience on which to base their understanding or response.
Refugee children from Afghanistan will almost invariably be Muslim and this in itself raises some issues that schools will need to address. For some children, there will be issues with school uniform, with others, schools may need to rethink key texts they are using in class eg ‘The Three Little Pigs’ with younger learners or ‘Lord of the Flies’ with children in secondary phase may be problematic. For guidance on these and other issues to do with having Muslim children on roll in your school, see the comprehensive guidance from the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB), posted in an open access course on the EMTAS Moodle here.
So to some final advice on how to negotiate this unfamiliar terrain. For one, try to remember always that refugee children’s responses may at first seem strange or oppositional or even rude. This sort of thing is likely to be indicative of a cultural barrier that needs to be overcome with both parties open to moving their respective positions. To get the best results, try to be the party that is receptive to difference and willing to make the most moves to understand and accommodate. If issues arise and you’re not sure what to do, EMTAS is here to support so do get in touch with us.
By phone 03707 794222
By email email@example.com
Find out more:
EMTAS’s ‘Welcome to Hampshire’ information guide for unaccompanied asylum seeking children (UASC) has been updated. By Hampshire EMTAS Specialist Teacher Advisor Lisa Kalim.
Do you have unaccompanied asylum seeking children (UASC) in
your school? If so I recommend that you
have a look here at EMTAS’s newly updated information guide for UASC and encourage your UASC to
use this useful resource, perhaps assisting them by printing a copy out for
them. This booklet was written
specifically for the young people in our schools who are UASC and aims to help
them settle into their new lives in Hampshire as smoothly as possible. It was first created over ten years ago as a
result of feedback received from UASC who had been in our school system for
several years and who shared what they wished they had known about when they
first arrived. It has been updated
regularly ever since. It seeks to provide
information on various topics that will be relevant to unaccompanied asylum
- what happens at each stage of the asylum process
- what their rights and responsibilities are
- education and schools/colleges/universities
- health care
- working in the UK
- sport and recreation
- how they can attempt to contact family and friends in their home country including those they have become separated from
- details of organisations that can provide support to them.
It has been written as simply as possible to allow those UASC who are already able to read in English sufficiently to access it independently, either in a printed version or via the online version on our website. For those who can understand English well but are not yet able to read it to the level required there is also an audio version here.
For those who are unable to access either the written or audio versions in English there are translations available in the three most commonly spoken languages by our UASC here in Hampshire – Arabic, Pashto and Farsi. These can be found here. Please check that your young person is able to read in the relevant language before providing them with this resource as some UASC may not have had the opportunity to learn to read or write in their country of origin due to difficulties with accessing education. EMTAS hopes to be able to provide audio versions of these translated booklets in the future, starting with Arabic, so keep an eye out on our website.
It is helpful if UASC can be given access to Welcome to
Hampshire as soon as possible after their arrival in Hampshire but even if they
have already been living here for several months or years it can still be
useful to them as they may have forgotten some of what they were told early on
or there may just have been too much information for them to take in all at
once at a stressful time. Welcome to Hampshire can be referred to by the young
person from time to time as needed, for example as they progress through the
asylum system and would like a reminder about what will happen next.
Reading Welcome to Hampshire can also be useful for staff
as it will give them an idea of the types of areas that are likely to be
important to their UASC and explains the asylum process simply. It also contains a section on useful contacts
which staff may also find helpful if working with UASC.
At the end of the booklet there is a form on which the
young people are invited to give feedback to EMTAS about Welcome to
Hampshire. This feedback is then used to
update future versions to ensure that it stays relevant and includes
information on everything that the young people feel they need. I would appreciate it if you could encourage
any UASC in your school who use the booklet in whatever format to complete it,
with assistance from a member of your school staff if needed. The young person can write in any language
they like, or their views could be scribed for them. Responses can either be posted to EMTAS’s office
in Basingstoke (address is included in Welcome to Hampshire) or sent via email
I’ll end with a quote from a 16 year old UASC from Iran who
helpfully provided us with the following feedback:
‘When I first came here, I didn’t know where I should live
or what I would do. This little book
helped me to find out what I needed to know.’
Hampshire EMTAS Specialist Teacher Advisor Lisa Kalim separates fact from fiction
If you read and believe certain tabloid newspapers you may well have reached the conclusion that UK schools are struggling with a large influx of asylum-seeking children and young people. However, this view is not supported by the most recent data released by the Home Office in February 20181. These give the details of all asylum applications made by children in 2017 and compare the data with the previous four years. Applications from Unaccompanied Asylum Seeking Children (UASC) and those that arrived in the UK with an asylum seeking relative/guardian are included in the data so all children who were seeking asylum during this period have been considered.
How many asylum seeking children started at British schools in 2017?
Probably far fewer than you think. In 2017 a total of 2,206 children applied for asylum in their own right, down 33% from the previous year. Of these, 71% were aged 16-17, 22% were aged 14-15 and 4% were aged under 14 with a further 3% of unknown age. All are entitled to a school or college place. An additional 2,774 applied as dependents of adult asylum seekers, making a total of 4,980 children. Some of the latter were under the age of 5 years at the time of their relative/guardian’s application and so would not all need a school place straight away. When you consider that there were 8,669,085 pupils in UK schools in 2017 (DfE, 2017)2 but only 4,980 of these were newly arrived asylum seekers, it would seem clear that schools are not being swamped by asylum seekers. How can they be when one year’s worth of newly arrived asylum seeking children make up less than 0.05% of the total school population?
But don’t some areas get more than their fair share of asylum seeking pupils?
The UK operates a policy of dispersal for asylum seekers to avoid particular areas receiving much larger numbers than others. This has been in place since 2000 for adult asylum seekers and their families and whilst it is not a perfect system (it has had criticism for removing new arrivals from their extended family in the UK, for example) it has meant that any particular area should not receive more than one asylum seeker per 200 of the settled population and therefore no area should feel ‘swamped’.
For UASC, a new scheme called the National Transfer Scheme has been in place since 2016. Similarly, it limits the numbers of UASC for whom any particular Local Authority is responsible to 0.07% of its total child population. Again, this should mean that no single area should receive a larger number than it is able to manage.
Didn’t the UK take in lots of children when the Calais Jungle closed?
Between 1st October 2016 and 15th July 2017 only 769 children were permitted to move to the UK from the camps in Calais. There were 227 children from Afghanistan, 211 from Sudan, 208 from Eritrea and 89 from Ethiopia. The rest came from a variety of countries, with fewer than 10 children from each. Nowhere near enough to swamp UK schools.
Where have the rest of the children come from?
Sudan is now the country of origin for the largest number of UASC. 89% of all applications in 2017 were from the following 9 countries: Sudan (337), Eritrea (320), Vietnam (268), Albania (250), Iraq (248), Iran (213), Afghanistan (210), Ethiopia (74) and Syria (41). 89% of these children were male. For female UASC Vietnam is the most common country of origin.
For children arriving with a relative or guardian, the countries of origin are similar but with the addition of Pakistan, Bangladesh and India. Numbers from Sudan and Vietnam have increased significantly since 2016, whereas numbers from Iran and Afghanistan have decreased. In contrast to UASC, around 66% of children that arrived with a relative or guardian are female.
How many children are granted refugee status and allowed to stay in the UK?
1,998 initial decisions relating to UASC were made in 2017. Of these 1,154 (58%) were granted refugee status or another form of protection, and an additional 378 (19%) were granted of temporary leave (UASC leave). A further 23% of UASC applicants were refused. This will include those from countries where it is safe to return children to their families, as well as applicants who were determined to be over 18 following an age assessment.
For children with a parent or guardian their decisions are linked to their adult applicant’s. So, if their parent or guardian is granted refugee status, the children are too. In 2017, 68% of asylum applications (excluding UASC) were refused. Only 28% were successful and an additional 4% were granted other types of leave. The numbers being granted refugee status are the lowest that they have been in the last 5 years. The numbers of refusals increased in 2017 compared to previous years. Pakistan, Bangladesh, India and Nigeria have well above average refusal rates, whereas children from Iran, Eritrea, Sudan and Syria are most likely to be granted refugee status. Those refused can choose to appeal the decision. In 2017 only 35% of appeals were allowed, while 60% were dismissed. This means that a large proportion of the asylum seeking children arriving in our schools will not be permitted to remain in the long term.
So, are our schools being swamped with asylum seekers or not?
Based on the facts, I would say definitely not but you make up your own mind. Some schools may have more asylum seekers than others but this does not mean that they are swamped. The numbers arriving overall are falling.
1 Refugee Council (February 2018) Quarterly asylum statistics [online]
2 Department for Education (June 2017) Schools, pupils and their characteristics: January 2017 [online] https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/650547/SFR28_2017_Main_Text.pdf