From Afghanistan to Manchester – supporting refugee students
Schools and colleges in Greater Manchester continue to welcome children whose parents have claimed asylum in the UK. According to data from the Northwest Regional Strategic Migration Partnership, the UK offered protection to 13,210 refugees in the year to September 2021.
A recent piece in Schools Week focused on the support provided to young people newly arrived in the UK from Afghanistan, including the use of buddy schemes and mentoring, EAL support and help with settling in to the local area.
PGCE Economics and Business Education trainees enjoyed a guest session led by University of Manchester undergraduate Soria, who came to the UK aged 10, speaking no English and studied BTEC Business before starting at the university.
Soria described her experience of being at primary school in Afghanistan, education interrupted by periodic bombings of nearby buildings which meant the school had to be evacuated. This led her family out of the country and to settle for a short time in Turkey, where she found the level of economic development overwhelming but started to go back to school.
She arrived in the UK in Year 6 aged 11 and took some time to settle into a very different world. No one forgets the impact of an exceptional teacher- for Soria this was Ms Moseley, who took time to understand her experience and supported her wellbeing. Soria focused on reading and writing in English as much as possible, but moving to secondary school proved challenging with such a large number of students and a new environment. In sixth form she met her Business teacher, Miss Pritchard, whose support and high expectations helped Soria achieve a Distinction*, including on the examined units. This and her A level in Psychology got her into Manchester. I have the pleasure of teaching Soria as an undergraduate.
Do all students know of the experiences of refugees and asylum seekers before they arrive? Is this especially important in the context of political attitudes to migrants and the boats that come across the Channel each day? Behind these people are human stories.
Gulwali Passarlay, author of The Lightless Sky, and who attended Essa Academy and The Sixth Form, Bolton before studying at the University of Manchester offers talks for schools and colleges on his experience of making the journey from Kabul aged 12, including his time in ‘the jungle’ in Calais and crossing the Channel.
UNICEF also have some excellent teaching resources that focus on where refugees in the UK originate from and the numbers involved. The Refugee Council has resources, including fact sheets about the number of claimants each year that help to dispel myths about numbers.
Schools and colleges make a difference to the life chances of refugee students. And no one forgets a good teacher. They change lives.