Approaching sensitive issues

The Moving Here site provides a valuable opportunity to explore the experiences of people who came to England during the last 200 years. Many of the topics covered in the modules are inextricably linked to issues such as racism, prejudice, diversity and immigration, which are still causing heated debate today. By examining the issues through an historical perspective, students can work towards gaining a more objective and deeper understanding of experiences relating to migration.

How to use the site

Moving Here encourages students to consider their own experiences, values and behaviour and allows them to explore a wide range of sources. In your teaching, you may want to encourage students to reflect on their identity and on local or regional examples of diversity in order to develop their understanding of the need to respect and celebrate differences. Where some activities require personal responses, students may wish to take more time and complete them as homework to fully reflect on their thoughts.

The personal stories provided on Moving Here can be used to help make experiences, such as the denial of rights, more relevant to students. The interactive activities have been designed to help students avoid becoming overwhelmed by the weight of history, which runs the risk of making the events seem surreal. By cross-referencing sources, students will have the opportunity to explore the validity of what is represented and compare different interpretations of events and issues. Insightful questions are posed throughout the modules to help pupils focus their studies and reflect on their learning.

What to do when difficult issues arise

At the start of the lesson prepare students for the issues they are going to cover.

If students respond inappropriately to text or images try to use questions to encourage the pupils to explore different interpretations of the source and bring the topic back into the context of the lesson.

Rather than avoid terms that are considered contentious it may be a valuable experience to make them part of the lesson. If they are discussed in an open manner within the context of the subject, any tension or inappropriate use of the words may be diffused. You may find it useful to set ground rules with the class for the words they think are appropriate to use. If reference is made to a word or phrase that is felt to be inappropriate, try to explain its origins and why the people who used it might have felt the need to use it.

If a student expresses a contentious viewpoint or question ask them what makes them say that. You may find it useful to try and teach students how prejudices and stereotypes develop. Encourage students to reflect on experiences where they were singled out or treated unfairly. If a question is posed that you feel unable to answer try to make the students aware that the process of problem solving is a valuable learning experience.

If children display anger, frustration or anxiety at the issues covered, discuss these feelings to try and reassure them about their fears. Encourage students to explore activities that allow them to pursue a positive response that promotes respect and celebrates diversity such as writing a letter, developing a policy to encourage a harmonious environment in school or the community, or finding ways of welcoming new children to the school. It may be useful to have circle time or open discussion at the end of the lesson to allow students to reflect on what they have learned and to express any concerns before leaving the classroom.

Historical context

The Moving Here Schools site covers migration to England over the last 200 years. If you would like more background information before starting to use the Schools site with your class, the Moving Here site can provide some of the information you need.

The Moving Here site contains a Migration Histories section that focuses on four different cultural groups in England: Irish, Jewish, Caribbean and South Asian. Reading the Introduction to the Migration Histories section will give you some background information on general migration history in England. Exploring the Migration History section for each of the four communities will provide you with a more in-depth study of those groups. The Migration Histories explore the following questions:

  • What was it like in the country of origin and why did people choose to move to England?
  • What was the journey like?
  • What were people's experiences of arriving and settling in England?
  • How do people reconnect with their (or their parents') countries of origin?

Please note that the Schools site is not limited to these four communities; many other cultural groups' experiences of migration are also included within the modules.