Education for Integration: Supporting Refugee and Asylum Seeker Children and Young People

In 2000, Plymouth became one of UK’s dispersal cities and since then the city has regularly welcomed Asylum Seekers and Refugees. Many of these new families have school-aged children and young people. Research has shown that Asylum Seeker and Refugee students face many challenges in school which can affect their integration process. Rutter (2006) conducted a research which examined ASR student’s experiences in five different British schools. The results highlighted a number of challenges which later affected their wellbeing and settling-in process. Among others, these challenges included racist attacks and discrimination; language barriers; lack of understanding from teachers; and poverty. Similarly, more recent studies like the Refugee Support Network’s report in 2018 suggest that ASR students still encounter similar challenges today. Based on existing work on Refugee Education, this study aims to ask if schools in Plymouth are ready to welcome Asylum Seeker and Refugee Students.

To answer this question, a document analysis on the school’s policies was held. Additionally, an online survey was distributed to education practitioners based in Plymouth and professionals working in Asylum Seeker and Refugee agencies were interviewed. The results indicate that schools in Plymouth lack an understanding of ASR students’ needs. More than 50% of the educators that took part in the survey expressed they felt to have ‘a little’ understanding of ASR students’ needs and experiences. This finding corresponds with the opinion of the majority of interviewees, which argued that most schools and schools’ staff don’t understand the background of ASR students’ needs. On this basis, it is recommended that Plymothian schools implement target policies and procedures to improve the support of ASR students’ integration journey. Elements that can be used to build a model of good practice were found.