New Scots: refugee integration strategy 2018 to 2022

The New Scots refugee integration strategy sets out an approach to support the vision of a welcoming Scotland.


Engagement to develop this strategy identified language as crucial to all elements of integration. There were consistent appeals from refugees and asylum seekers for help to improve their English language skills. For many, this is to enable them to find employment or pursue further education. It also enables people to understand essential information about housing, healthcare and other services. Being able to communicate confidently with people, including neighbours, shop workers or members of a local community group, helps people to feel settled, build social connections and be involved in their local area.

Welcoming Our Learners: Scotland's English for Speakers of Other Languages ( ESOL) Strategy 2015 – 2020 [81] places ESOL learning in the broad context of learning in Scotland and sets the context for the provision of publicly funded ESOL in Scotland. It aims to coordinate the delivery and improve the quality of ESOL provision for all residents in Scotland, for whom English is not a first language. It was developed through discussions with learners, including members of the refugee community. Their views reinforced the need for delivery to be learner-centred and to have an effectively supported learner journey.

The Scottish Qualifications Authority ( SQA) provides a comprehensive range of ESOL qualifications to meet the needs of ESOL learners, from complete beginner to university entrance level. There are three ESOL literacies units specifically designed for candidates, who are not literate in English, or have little or no literacy in their first language. ESOL learners are also able to gain accreditation for their learning at all levels. This supports transition to other education courses or employment.

The development of ESOL Partnerships within each community planning area has meant that a range of formal learning opportunities and activities is delivered across each local authority area in a manner that utilises the funding available to meet learners' needs more effectively.

Community Learning and Development has a key role in supporting refugees to settle into communities, to develop social relationships and promote opportunities for intercultural links. Language learning is one of the areas, where there are real opportunities for local learning and community involvement. Opportunities to practise with native speakers outside formal classes can boost confidence and skills development. Informal language sharing within communities is recognised as a way to not only help develop language skills through immersion, but also to build social connections between refugees (and other people whose first language is not English) and host communities. The Sharing Lives, Sharing Languages [82] project used a peer education model to complement existing ESOL provision, by providing group-based activities to aid language acquisition. The project also highlighted how language learning, like integration, can be a two way process. While refugees were supported in their language learning, they also had an opportunity to share their language with peers from the host communities. With the arrival of refugees through the Syrian Resettlement Programme, many local authorities have utilised offers of volunteering from the local community and developed informal models of English language learning to complement formal ESOL provision.

In 2017, COSLA commissioned work to deliver learning and support for those delivering and planning ESOL for adults, who have been resettled in Scotland through refugee resettlement schemes. The project delivered a series of learning events that brought together those involved in the planning or delivery of ESOL within the resettlement schemes to explore and share their experiences and practice. It culminated in the production of a good practice guide [83] which brings together learning from these events and from focused discussions with individual practitioners, experts, and learners.

The principle of sharing languages is promoted for effective practice in supporting English as an Additional Language ( EAL) pupils in schools. The national resource, Learning in 2+ Languages, [84] highlights the importance of ensuring that the pupil's first language continues to be developed, because it is recognised that this helps with the acquisition of a second language, such as English.

Language skills are, therefore, not limited to improving English. The Scottish Government's 1+2 language policy [85] in schools promotes the benefits of language learning for all young people. The policy promotes a model of learning the student's mother tongue plus two additional languages. This approach also recognises the benefits of bilingualism and increased linguistic diversity for academic and cognitive skills, but also for Scotland's wider economy and international reputation. There is a growing diversity of modern languages being spoken, [86] reflecting Scotland's growing confidence in, and recognition of, community and heritage languages. For refugee families, bilingualism can be important for maintaining links with their family, culture and heritage, as well as enabling them to communicate effectively with English speakers.

Key issues identified through New Scots engagement

A great deal of feedback was received during the New Scots engagement that took place during Summer 2017, and a more detailed analysis of this will be published in 2018. However, some of the broad themes raised, which are relevant to language, include:

1. The availability of formal ESOL classes. Some refugees and asylum seekers highlighted barriers to attending classes, including access to childcare and transport to get to classes.

2. The time it takes to develop English language skills to desired levels and opportunities to help accelerate learning. Some participants highlighted a lack of opportunities or awareness of informal language learning beyond the classroom, such as conversational practise, or through work experience, volunteering and community groups. Language learning tailored to support employment or personal goals, like learning to drive, was also highlighted.

3. Maintaining mother tongue language skills was also highlighted, particularly for children.

Objectives and Actions

Objectives and actions for each theme contribute to the overarching New Scots outcomes. New Scots is designed to be a dynamic strategy, which is able to adapt to new and emerging issues. New actions will be developed during implementation. The following initial actions set out the work related to language, which will be progressed in the first instance:

New Scots Outcome

Objective: what we want to achieve

Action: what we will do

1. Refugees and asylum seekers live in safe, welcoming and cohesive communities and are able to build diverse relationships and connections.

Refugees have the opportunity to share their language and culture with their local communities.

Promote good practice, in which the home language of refugees is used in positive ways.

2. Refugees and asylum seekers understand their rights, responsibilities and entitlements, and are able to exercise them to pursue full and independent lives.

Refugees and asylum seekers have the opportunity to achieve the language and the language qualifications they need to progress to further learning or employment.

Continue to monitor the uptake of ESOL qualifications from Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework ( SCQF) level 2 to SCQF level 6, across sectors (school, college and community providers) in Scotland.

Identify possible gaps in relation to preparation and orientation for academic study, to enable students to access further and higher education.

Gather evidence of any barriers to offering ESOL qualifications, and identify ways to overcome these barriers.

Explore how digital technology could be used to increase access to ESOL provision for learners in areas where provision is limited.

Newly arrived adults and young people with language and literacy needs know about their options for language acquisition, and effective practice is promoted and shared.

Consider initial assessment practice with ESOL practitioners, with a view to developing guidance on good practice on different approaches and outcomes for pre-literate learners.

Continue to promote the SQA ESOL qualifications to practitioners across the sectors (school, college and community providers), to raise awareness of the value of qualifications for learners.

3. Refugees and asylum seekers are able to access well-coordinated services, which recognise and meet their rights and needs.

Those working with refugees and asylum seekers improve their understanding of the language barriers and how to overcome them.

Develop, trial and evaluate an online learning module on supporting bilingual learners in the school sector.

Agree and explore approaches to ESOL delivery that take account of the needs of refugees and asylum seekers, by working through local ESOL partnerships to create effective models of practice.

Consider use of an online learning facility for learning or training opportunities related to language.


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