Welcoming refugees and asylum seekers

This page provides resources for schools to download when preparing to welcome and support newly arrived children who are refugees or asylum seekers. Many of the resources will be relevant to other international new arrivals who are new to English. We acknowledge the advice and resources produced by The Bell Foundation and the Information for Schools produced by the DECP.

The primary needs for refugee children arriving in a new school will be to feel safe and belong, before they can start to engage with formal learning. Schools can help by identifying and building on existing strengths and skills and providing a flexible curriculum with time for play.

The Bell Foundation recommends the ‘paws’ model:

Prepare – Prior to admission

Alert – Before the pupil starts

Welcome - The first days

Support – The first weeks

Prepare – Prior to admission

  • Gather information from the pupil and parent(s) to create a pupil profile
  • Arrange a tour for child and parent with first language support if possible
  • Provide key information for parents
  • Agree a start date and organize an initial timetable (first 3 weeks)


Example/template for a pupil profile

About the English Education system: Guidance for parents (primary) in English

About the English Education system: Guidance for parents (primary) in Dari

About the English Education system: Guidance for parents (secondary) in English

About the English Education system: Guidance for parents (secondary) in Dari

Helping your child learn: Guidance for parents in English

Helping your child learn: Guidance for parents in Dari

Other languages available (Source: The Bell Foundation)

Alert – Before the pupil starts

  • Send the pupil profile to all relevant staff
  • Organise a buddy system for class and break time: brief your buddies (see checklist)
  • Prepare resources for the first few days
  • Plan support for each part of the day
  • Make essential arrangements, e.g. transport, free school meals, PE kit etc.

Useful phrases in Dari and other support resources for the early days

Example Buddy Checklist for FS/KS1

Example Buddy Checklist for KS2 (could be adapted for KS3)

Welcome - The first days

  • Greet new arrivals and take them to class
  • Introduce them to their buddies (consider providing visuals for buddies - see links below)
  • Check that food, drink and activities are organized for lunchtime

Visual survival language

Beginners vocab fan

Playground fan

Support – The first weeks

  • Put language support in place, e.g. consider a scheme of work for learners who are new to English
  • Put pastoral support in place
  • Complete an EAL assessment and set language targets. It is suggested that any initial assessment only takes place after the first 2 weeks in school
  • Monitor progress and adjust support where necessary
  • Keep in touch with parents

Teaching strategies

Classroom strategies

Quick ideas

Racing to English

Teaching key words

Graphic organisers

Organising your classroom

Pastoral support

Asylum seeking and refugee children and young people are a very vulnerable group, who may experience emotional or mental health problems, discrimination and racism.

Pastorally, the school’s first aim is to provide a safe and supportive environment for a refugee or asylum seeking child, both physically and emotionally.

Many refugees have come from unstable social situations and may have high levels of anxiety or emotional distress as a result of the trauma of leaving their home country and their initial experiences of the host country.

Some asylum seeking and refugee children may exhibit behaviour which can be related to their recent experiences. These behaviours can be disruptive, emotional, social or learning-related. Such behaviours are equally associated with SEND and mirror other social, emotional and mental health difficulties, making it difficult to determine the cause and provide the right support. It is important to make contact with the right agency locally to seek support in these situations.

Asylum seeking and refugee children can experience racism, bullying and discrimination within and outside school. Ensure that pupils and staff are clear that this is unacceptable and that they must report any incidents. Make it clear what constitutes unacceptable behaviour.

Be alert to the needs of school staff, who may not be skilled and knowledgeable in meeting the needs of asylum seeking and refugee pupils. Be ready for questions and reply honestly. Do not be afraid to say ‘I don’t know but let’s find out’.

Source: The Bell Foundation