ITE Session: Teaching and learning about refugees - promoting community cohesion through the citizenship curriculum - Bill Bolloten and Tim Spafford (2009)

What the resource is:

This ITE session is part of a series of six ITE sessions that can be delivered to increase students' knowledge about key issues and effective practice for teaching refugee and asylum seeker children and young people in primary and secondary schools. This session considers the importance of raising refugee issues and incorporating them within the Citizenship curriculum. The session provides ways to promote the global dimension in the curriculum, human rights and the celebration of cultural diversity. It also considers some of the tensions arising between the government policy agenda and the experiences of asylum seekers.


The session consists of overall notes for the tutor; a powerpoint presentation and notes to support it; a sheet of activities; and a list of further reading. These are all attached below.



The aims of the resource:


  • To provide strategies and resources teachers can use to increase pupils' awareness of the experiences of refugees
  • To suggest practical ways of developing pupil participation and supporting community cohesion

Key focus:


  • Why learn about refugees
  • Understanding key terminology
  • Approaches to teaching about refugees: sensitive issues
  • The global dimension
  • Changes to public policy
  • Supporting students into responsible action


The quality, authority and credibility of the resource:

A detailed PowerPoint presentation, presentation notes, tutors' notes, useful resource links and range of activities make this resource accessible to students and straightforward for tutors to navigate and deliver. This resource draws from contemporary guidance and resources.


If you have any feedback on using this session, we welcome it. Contact details can be found at


The implications for ITE tutors/mentors:

The resource is relevant to ITE or CPD courses in the secondary sector. Learning about refugees links closely with a focus on equalities and to National Curriculum Programmes of Study across many subject areas, not just citizenship. It links strongly to cross-curriculum dimensions, such as identity and cultural diversity and the global dimension.   


The relevance to ITE students:

Although the secondary curriculum stipulates the need for teachers to teach about cultural diversity and raise awareness of human rights, teaching about refugees is frequently a source of great anxiety for ITE students.  This session increases student teachers' awareness of refugees, provides strategies and resources for the classroom and supports ITE students' promotion of race equality and community cohesion through their teaching.


Learning about refugees is a rich source of study for a range of subjects. For example in English, teaching about refugees can promote speaking, listening, analytical and debating skills and provide a rich source to non-fiction study. It resources important historical topics such as the era of the second world war and the Holocaust, the growth of multi-ethnic Britain and the Arab and Israeli conflict. Religious education can address persecution because of religious beliefs, and examine many of the religious and moral dilemmas of a multi-ethnic society.  Studying refugees helps pupils to understand how they are linked to other nations through migration, encourages positive attitudes towards cultural diversity and enables pupils to explore themes demanded in the Citizenship Education Programme of Study.


The relevance to early career teachers and senior staff:

Much of what is relevant to ITE students is equally relevant to early career teachers, many of whom may feel unconfident about tackling sensitive issues such as refugees in the classroom. The materials can also be used as a resource for CPD or Masters' level courses for practising teachers and senior staff.



Tim Spafford, 2010



Human rights, Diversity, Refugee, Asylum seeker, UN Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees, Immigration, Empathy, Participation and responsible action, Identity, Belonging, Citizenship

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