New Scots refugee integration strategy 2018 to 2022: engagement analysis

Analysis of engagement which informed the development of Scotland’s second New Scots refugee integration strategy.

Chapter 6 Education

The majority of responses made comments about education for refugees and asylum seekers, including:

  • Nursery provision
  • School education
  • College education
  • Higher education
  • Additional or specialised support
  • Digital education.

Each of these points is explored in more detail below.

6.1 Nursery provision

A few responses emphasised the importance of nursery provision for children seeking asylum and children with a refugee background:

  • Being in nursery allowed the children to interact regularly with native English speakers and therefore contributed to their English language acquisition.
  • Having their children in nursery full-time would allow their parents to use this time for their own education, primarily language learning - a point covered further in Chapter 7.
  • Responses included incidences of refugees and asylum seekers having had difficulties in registering their children in nurseries since they were unable to provide passports for their children.

6.2 School education

Many responses raised points about refugees and asylum seekers attending schools:

  • It was suggested that schools should hire more staff who speak the first languages of refugees and asylum seekers.
  • Responses proposed that the topics of "integration", "racism" and "equality" should be covered by the Scottish school curriculum. It was felt that schools and their curricula play, as one response put it, "a central role in incorporating real societal change in the longer term".
  • Responses suggested that school teachers and other school staff should receive training about the specific issues facing refugees and asylum seekers. In addition, it was proposed that the training should also cover how to communicate effectively with children whose first language is not English. On the basis of this, they would be able to create inclusive learning environments for children with a refugee background.
  • Responses indicated that it should be a priority for children arriving in Scotland to get a space in a local school as soon as possible.
  • Considering that children with a refugee background are likely to have fragmented educational histories, it was suggested that the usual age bands of particular courses should be applied flexibly in the case of refugees and asylum seekers.

6.3 College education

Many responses made comments in relation to refugees and asylum seekers gaining access to college education:

  • Responses felt that colleges needed to have a better understanding of the specific circumstances of refugees and asylum seekers and the issues they are facing. Building on this, it was felt that further and higher education institutions should, by 2020, have a policy in place on engaging with refugees and asylum seekers.
  • Responses indicated that refugees and asylum seekers who already speak English at a high standard would like to have the opportunity to study subjects other than English ( i.e. ESOL courses) at college.
  • Responses considered that there are currently long waiting lists for college courses, and indicated that college courses need to expand in order to meet the demands of the refugee and asylum seeking population.

6.4 Higher education

Many responses raised points about refugees and asylum seekers gaining access to higher education:

  • Responses suggested that asylum seekers should be entitled to tuition fee or living cost support from the Student Awards Agency for Scotland ( SAAS).
  • The cost of higher education was seen as a potential barrier to refugees gaining access to higher education.
  • Responses suggested that universities should have a point of contact regarding their entry requirements and application procedures.
  • It was proposed that universities should offer more pre-sessional academic programmes which refugees and asylum seekers could take, qualifying them to access particular university courses.
  • One response suggested that there should be a pilot of an access policy allowing refugees and asylum seekers to try out any classes being offered in further or higher education.
  • Another response suggested that there should be better linkages between further and higher education institutions to ease the transition of refugees and asylum seekers.

6.5 Additional or specialised support

Many responses suggested that refugees and asylum seekers should receive additional support while in education (regardless of the specific educational institution), including:

  • Additional academic support, including the provision of homework clubs or mentoring programmes.
  • Greater language support for students who are refugees or asylum seekers – an issue covered in more detail in Chapter 7.
  • Refugees and asylum seekers need clearer guidance about their rights and entitlements in relation to education and how to apply for and enrol in different educational institutions. This was raised by four groups of young people at different engagement events.
  • Refugees and asylum seekers should receive greater financial support for covering educational expenses such as college or university fees, school uniforms or laptops.
  • There should be clear mechanisms in place for recognising the prior educational qualifications of refugees and asylum seekers, easing the transition into further or higher education.

6.6 Digital education

Some responses included comments about digital education. It was suggested that refugees and asylum seekers should receive IT and computer training. This was seen as particularly important in the context of Universal Credit applications needing to be made online, and the importance of the internet for job searching.


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