Refugee Children's Experiences of Integration and Education through Language and Literacies

Lead Research Organisation: University of Bath
Department Name: Education


The proposed research project will examine how children of refugee background deal with language learning and literacy education in the UK. This is timely given historical and current debates around immigration in the UK, where the government has a vested and explicit interest in immigrant education, specifically their successful integration into society (Da Lomba, 2010). A large part of integration begins with language (Ager & Strang, 2008), and many refugees lacking fluency in English are usually placed in English as an Additional Language (EAL) programmes. Current EAL theory presumes a relatively stable home situation, a history of literacy, and physical and mental well-being. However, refugee children may have lost parents or had no stable home for years, may lack access to books and formal education, or have trauma from their experiences of displacement (Hek, 2005). These differences warrant investigation and studying the literacy and language experiences and development of refugee children will reveal some of how current issues and policy both help and hinder these students.
Research Questions: The proposed study will be largely qualitative in nature and aims to provide descriptive answers to the following research questions:
1. What pedagogical responses to children of refugee background are in place in the UK educational system?
2. What are refugee children's experiences of language and literacy in both English and their other languages (both before and) after arrival in the UK?
3. What roles does literacy play in their life with regard to integration into UK society?
4. How does literacy facilitate their education and academic development?
Methodology: Participants will be KS2 and 3 refugee children and their attendant communities across the UK. They will be identified and approached through cooperation with local government, charities, and schools, with a focus on refugees who have recently moved to the area where possible. Data will be collected using multi-site ethnographic methods involving two phases. The first phase will involve a national level survey of local government EAL programmes, aiming to identify and analyse the efficacy of pedagogical responses to refugee children. Phase two involves case studies from multiple sites with concentrated refugee populations identified in phase one.
This will necessitate observation of participants in key sites of community interaction, collection of artefacts (e.g. children's literacy work), and semi-structured. All interactions will be recorded, transcribed, coded, and analysed using grounded discourse analysis (Strauss & Corbin, 1998) and then situated using the field notes and collected artefacts. Working with refugees and children requires careful ethical consideration. Written permission to collect data will be needed from each participant, the study must respect child and data protection laws and working with refugees in particular requires discretion due to their potentially delicate situation and histories (Clark-Kazak, 2017).


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Studentship Projects

Project Reference Relationship Related To Start End Student Name
ES/P000630/1 01/10/2017 30/09/2027
2095396 Studentship ES/P000630/1 01/10/2018 30/11/2022 Thomas Steven Avery