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Supporting Refugee Students

In this update I want to focus on Refugee background students and how we can support students who have experienced trauma, violence and chronic stress in their lives.  “All refugees have suffered grief and loss, if only over the loss of their home and familiar way of life. In addition refugees might have suffered the traumas of persecution, violence, war, the loss of loved ones and close relatives. They might suffer from Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).” Interventions for Refugee Children in New Zealand Schools: Models, Methods, and Best Practice (2005), page 2.

This focus is in response to the current refugee situation facing the world. In response to the crisis New Zealand has agreed to increase the number of refugees accepted into our country. School principals need to be well-informed about the needs of refugee children and parents and the variety of services that are available to support refugees. teachers need to know how to best support them within the classroom. 

According to the Education Refugee background students web page “Quota refugees spend about 6 weeks at the Centre for Refugee Education at the Refugee Resettlement Centre at MangereRefugees can also apply to sponsor family members to join them in New Zealand under the family reunification programme. The family members do not go through the Refugee Resettlement Centre.”

English language learners from a refugee background qualify for ESOL funding in the same way as other English language learners. Refugees receive more intensive funding support for the first 2 years at school here, followed by 3 years of standard funding.

The Ministry of Education’s Refugee Handbook for Schools [PDF, 851 KB] has detailed information to help schools support students from a refugee background – to help them learn and feel part of the school community and New Zealand society.

On the Education refugee page you will also find information about Refugee education coordinators who liaise between refugee communities, agencies and schools to help with education and resettlement. There is also advice about the Ministry Refugee Flexible Funding Pool which offers schools additional resources to address broader issues that may prevent refugee background students from participating and achieving in mainstream schooling.

Readings on how to support Refugee students in the classroom

ELs Living With Trauma, Violence, and Chronic Stress Posted on 26 February 2015 by Judie Haynes.This blogpost on TESOL International provides steps teachers can take to be more prepared for the realities of ELLs suffering from trauma, violence, and chronic stress. She suggests 3 main types of support and provides more details on how to do this in her post.

1. Using an empathetic approach

2. Building a collaborative team

3Implementing Predictable Classroom Routines and Practices. I particularly like the last point “Consistently providing a model of expected behavior (e.g, how to engage in a paired or small group task) and providing students with multiple practice opportunities to apprentice into these behaviors using paired and small group learning as a primary method.”

9 Ideas to Support ELs’ Social-Emotional Learning another blog post by Judie Haynes on TESOL International, while this is not just about refugees it has lots of practical tips that will be relevant.

Teach Empathy With Digital Immigration Stories Sara Burnett, posted May 28, 2015 on Edutopia. This post looks at the connections between digital storytelling, immigration, and empathy; establishing a culture of listening and respect; creating empathetic moments by modelling, conferencing, and sharing.  

Other relevant readings

Interventions for Refugee Children in New Zealand Schools: Models, Methods, and Best Practice (2005) Hamilton, Anderson, Frater-Mathieson, Loewen and Moore. The review looks at different models, methods and best practice for intervening with refugee children in New Zealand schools. It examines the literature on refugee trauma, loss and grief and second language concerns, resilience, issues of migration, school and teacher effects, and conceptual and policy issues. It also discusses a range of best practices for refugee children within schools. Particularly see Chapter 9
Best Practice for Refugee Children within Schools:  Issues for ConsiderationThere will be seven sets of issues for consideration: 1. psychological and therapeutic needs, 2. language needs, 3. fostering resilience, 4. easing the transition to a new country and culture, 5. structure of schools, school policies and teaching practices, 6. facilitating school change and teacher development, and 7. inclusive education.

Why we left: Refugees tell the stories of their journeys to New Zealand TESS MCCLURE  Last updated 18:26, September 13 2015 in The Press on Stuff. Tess speaks to four New Zealand refugees about what forced them from home - and what they've brought to New Zealand. This includes the inspiring story of Dr Hassan Ibrahim who is one of the MOE’s Regional Refugee coordinators.

Educating Newcomer ELLs with Limited Schooling: An Overview By: Debbie Zacarian and Judie Haynes (2012) Colorin Colarado

Why the language we use to talk about refugees matters so much, by Adam Taylor,  The Washington Post July 30 2015

Immigration New Zealand has several useful links. They also have Factsheets and videos for refugees and family members settling in New Zealand here.

Refugee Education Conference

You may like to consider sending a representative from your school to the Refugee Education Conference to be held in Auckland on 1-2 October. This conference hosted by AUT and the Ministry of Education will focus on education for refugee background learners. The conference themes are: Leadership, structure and support models for refugee-centred schools; English language teaching and learning; Literacy, Models of success for children, young people and families from refugee backgrounds; Best practice, policy and pedagogy;  Sharing ideas and teaching tools; Strengths and rights-based models;  Refugee centred approaches;  New research related to the conference theme and Refugee voice. You do need to register and the fees have been kept very low to encourage greater participation.

I would love to hear your thoughts and questions on this topic or any other topic of interest.


Tuvalu Language Week Reminder

The next Community language week starts on the 27th September – Tuvalu language week

You may be interested in reading this related sabbatical report:  A Journey into the Pacific: Research aimed at improving the ability of students from Tuvalu and Kiribati to access to New Zealand education. Teresa Thomson, Principal, Kings Gate School, Pukekohe

Community Update

·         Christchurch event -Intergenerational transmission of minority languages Symposium:  Migrant language(s) in the home: practices and policies. Click here for further details.