England did not participate in the 1st NRT round (2017-18: Setting the scene workshop). For this reason, the ‘Setting the scene’ stage was incorporated in the preparation activities of the 2018-19 workshop. Specific topics were identified as priority policy areas both through a review of the findings from recent research carried out in these areas and through consultation with a number of policy makers and with practitioners who work with migrant and refugee children. Through this process we identified the following three topics as priority areas for discussion at the English NRT:
- How to effectively engage the parents of migrant and refugee children.
- How to ensure teachers are adequately prepared to meet the challenges of successful integrating migrant and refugee children into the classroom.
- The impact of mental health issues on the ability of migrant or refugee children to learn effectively.
Together with the invitations to the NRT, participants were asked to confirm the significance of the above or/and to suggest other topics that might be considered key priority areas. All participants confirmed their agreement on the significance of the issues in the list either by email or during the event. No other areas were put forward for discussion.
- The challenges of engaging parents in migrant and refugee children’s education was raised as an issue in the ALFIRK: Erasmus+ project which sought to address barriers relating to increased parental empowerment in the education processes. Our findings showed the significance of the role of the school not only for the educational inclusion of migrant/refugee students but for the social inclusion of parents and families. The project highlighted the significance of parents’ engagement in the school life and made suggestions to schools for the development of initiatives and policies that support parental involvement.
- The PERAE Research project, funded by the MERCATOR foundation, explored refugee students’ experience of educational inclusion in several EU countries and highlighted the complexity of achieving inclusive education for this group. Two key components were found to be the role of the migrant students’ parents and family in supporting them in their education journey and the preparedness of teachers. Examination of teacher training programmes (Initial and CPD) showed that trainee teachers are taught very little about the needs of these groups of students beyond the schools’ statutory duty to ensure their inclusion.
- Finally, PERAE, as well as other projects conducted by other research teams have shown the impact of the experiences of migrant and refugee students on their mental health and wellbeing. In fact, mental health has drawn a lot of attention in England in recent years both in general society and in the education sector specifically and has been raised as a particular concern by several local organizations. Indeed, one of the attendees came from an organization that specialises in offering child and family therapy for refugee children at school. Many schools are looking at ways to improve the mental health and wellbeing of their school community including teachers and students, aiming to reduce student stress and anxiety and in so doing improve student outcomes and results.
Whilst none of these areas are necessarily on the national policy agenda, they are felt by those working with refugee and asylum-seeking students in the sector to be areas that urgently need addressing at the policy level.