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Centre for Education for Racial Equlity in Scotland
Refugees and Asylum Seekers in Scottish Schools
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Case Studies
Barmulloch Primary School
16 months ago there were no children from ethnic minorities in this school. There are now 37 refugee children out of a total of 278 and we are delighted to have them. If we had a much higher proportion it might cause us some practical problems but those already here have enriched the life of the school.
Joyce Strain, Head Teacher, Barmulloch Primary School, Glasgow G21 3DA
  • Preparing a Welcoming Atmosphere - Children were encouraged to look forward to the arrival of the newcomers. In Assemblies they were asked to think about what it means to be a refugee, (material was taken from the "Primary Assembly File" - available on subscription from www.pfp-publishing.com). In Environmental Studies they looked at maps and learned about the refugees’ countries. At weekly News Times they looked at cuttings. In Circle Time, activities were aimed at developing caring attitudes and skills such as empathy and communication.
  • Supporting Staff - Three extra teachers were appointed to run a special unit teaching basic English and to support the integration of the children into normal classes.
  • Supporting Pupils - Everybody is given a buddy of their own age and gender and allocated to a register class when they arrive.
  • They join in with as many lessons as possible. Playground games which do not demand any language skills were introduced.
  • Dealing with problems - There have only been two minor bullying incidents, which were dealt with in just the same way as any other bullying. The educational psychologist has given a lot of help with children who have had terrifying and tragic experiences in their own country. Some youngsters were really frightened of the police so a special trip to the local police station was organised.
  • Learning from Refugees - A colourful map in the corridor shows the countries where everyone was born. Work displayed throughout the school by the refugee children allows them to tell their stories and demonstrates their rapidly improving English.

 

Sighthill Nursery
Sighthill began housing refugees in May 1999 when Kosovan families moved in. However in 2000, almost 1,500 asylum seekers arrived in North Glasgow. Currently there are 43 children on the nursery’s waiting list from asylum seeker background.
Mary Garry, Head Teacher, Glasgow G21 1RG
Staff work against racism and bullying by:
  • Developing positive attitudes towards diversity - particularly in areas like gender, language, faith and culture.
  • Working with all parents to inform them about the importance of dealing with bullying and racial harassment - local parents are helped to consider how racial harassment can be damaging and asylum seeker parents are encouraged to speak up and tell if racial bullying or harassment is occurring.
  • Developing staff awareness - it is very important that staff develop confidence in dealing with racism and bullying.
  • Networking with Glasgow Council’s "English as an Additional Language" service.
  • Breaking down barriers between parents and school through the work of the Home Visitor (often with the help of an interpreter).

 

St. Machar Academy
We have 1052 pupils with around 5% from ethnic minorities, and 78 staff with 2 from ethnic minorities. Some pupils from overseas have parents studying at Aberdeen University. We are unaware if any pupil is from a refugee background unless the family has chosen to disclose this but we feel that we have an effective multicultural and anti-racist ethos and would be willing to support refugee pupils. We work hard to create a safe environment for pupils to learn. Many pupils feel they should not tell tales on their friends but we stress our school is a ‘Clyping School’. We enourage the pupils to tell if they are being bullied.
Len Taylor, Head Teacher, St. Machar’s Academy, Aberdeen, AB24 3YZ
The school aims to develop a multicultural and anti-racist ethos by:
  • Celebrating and respecting difference - making every pupil special by valuing who they are. Last year the timetable was suspended for a day. The whole school and wider school community joined to celebrate cultural, ethnic and linguistic diversity. Various subject departments such as Music, PE, Geography, Home Economics and Art planned to embed race equality issues over the entire autumn term timetable.
  • Promoting the concept of the ‘Clyping School’ where bullying of any form is not tolerated. Underpinning this are clear Anti-Bullying, Anti-Racism and Praise and Reward policies.
  • Giving leaflets promoting the school’s stance on equal opportunities and bullying to every new member of staff, pupil and parent/guardian. Racial discrimination is explicitly mentioned in these leaflets.
  • Working to build and maintain strong links with community organisations, such as Racial Equality Councils.
  • Providing regular staff training on race equality matters.

 

Shawlands Academy, Glasgow
Twenty refugees have arrived at Shawlands this year. The school already had well-developed anti-bullying and anti-racist policies. The newcomers have experienced some name-calling from Asian Scottish pupils but we have tried to deal with this sensitively by counselling those involved and by initiating discussions in social education classes.
Anwar Din, Principal Teacher of Guidance, Shawlands Academy, Glasgow G41 3TR
  • The existing peer support system has been particularly useful. Volunteer young people have set up an anti-bullying forum and offer peer counselling to anyone who is worried about bullying.
  • The multi-ethnic school community (staff and pupils) has made integration of these pupils easier.
  • A guidance teacher, is hoping to organise lunchtime leisure activities which would encourage mixing of pupils from all backgrounds. Games will include backgammon and various Egyptian and Moroccan card games (no gambling will be allowed!). "Games are an international language," explained the teacher.
  • The school is actively encouraging arts and drama activities in the form of workshops aimed at promoting social mixing. The workshops will be facilitated by a well known playwright, who was awarded a prize at the Fringe Festival, for his play dealing with asylum seeker issues.

 

  
Issues

When we asked teachers about bullying incidents involving refugee children a number of issues came up repeatedly:

  • Refugee children may be reluctant to report bullying or racism because they do not want to draw attention to themselves. Their previous experiences may have made them mistrustful of authority.
  • Most refugee children are keen to learn, attend school well, learn English rapidly and, as a result, integrate rapidly into their peer group.
  • Some children are traumatised when they arrive. One teacher explained, "we always have to remember what some of these children have been through; the children from one family had watched their mother being killed."
  • Unsurprisingly, children whose countries of origin have been at war sometimes display enmity towards each other. Refugee children may act in what we would consider to be a racist manner towards other refugee children.
  • Learning, emotional, social or other problems may go unrecognised for some time because children arrive without records.
  • Many refugee children have been used to a rigid, traditional system of discipline and may find it difficult to adapt to a more relaxed school ethos.
  • Some cultural practices are different. One boy had to be told that forcing his younger sister to carry his bag around the school for him could be described as bullying. One teacher said that he had to reprimand some older refugee boys (and some Scottish boys!) because of their "dodgy attitudes" towards their female peers.
  • Refugee parents need to be helped to understand that they have a role in working with teachers and pupils to tackle racism and bullying.
  • Schools can draw on support from outside agencies (see next page).
 
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