ITE Session: Understanding the experiences and needs of refugee children and young people - Bill Bolloten and Tim Spafford (2009)

What the resource is:

This 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 aims to develop students' understanding of the reasons why young people have left their homelands, their needs on arriving in the UK as well as key terminology. The use of film clips provides an opportunity to hear directly from young people.


Refugee and asylum seeker children and young people are a diverse group. Although they come from a wide range of different national, ethnic, cultural and linguistic backgrounds, they have all arrived in the UK to seek safety from persecution.


The session looks at how refugee children and young people have diverse experiences: in their home countries, during their journeys to safety and also in the country of exile. These experiences can impact on their progress and well-being, and need to be understood by schools so barriers to learning can be addressed.

Finally the session considers the importance of school for refugee children and how it can provide stability, a daily routine and opportunities for friendships.


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 increase awareness of diverse backgrounds and experiences of refugee children and young people
  • To develop understanding of how the well-being of refugee learners may be affected by their experiences and circumstances
  • To consider how schools can fulfil their duties to safeguard and promote well-being


Key focus:


  • Every child matters
  • Understanding who refugees are
  • The impact of persecution and exile
  • Barriers to accessing education and well-being
  • The importance of school for young refugees
  • What helps refugee children to be resilient and make progress


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. 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 particularly useful for tutors/mentors aiming to raise awareness of diversity in the classroom and the particular experiences and needs of refugee children. It may be best introduced with ITE students who have limited experience of working in diverse settings, although it can also enhance the knowledge and understanding of those who may have already come into contact with refugee pupils.


The relevance to ITE students:

The presence of refugee and asylum seeker pupils in schools can often be a source of anxiety and misunderstanding for ITE students. They may not have had access to accurate information on who they are; some may also have absorbed stereotyped information from the media. ITE students can lack confidence about how best to support refugee pupils and may not be aware of how well school settings can support their well-being. By drawing on refugee pupils' own views and suggestions, the session can assist ITE students to further develop their skills of building positive relationships with children.


The relevance to early career teachers and senior staff:

Much of what is relevant to ITE students is equally relevant to early career teachers, who may feel unconfident about understanding the experiences and needs refugees and how they can be supported through effective multi-agency work. The materials can also be used as a resource for CPD or Masters' level courses for practising teachers and senior staff.



Bill Bolloten, 2010




Every Child Matters, Safeguarding, Well-being, Refugee, Asylum seeker, Unaccompanied asylum seeker children, Migration, Persecution, Diversity, Barriers to learning, Community cohesion

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