Why this topic matters
Over the last 6 years, the topic of migration and people seeking refuge in the UK has been a dominant theme in news headlines. Recently, there has been another increase in media coverage of refugees attempting to cross the channel and enter the UK, with several news outlets and individuals calling into question their legal right to enter the country.
Now, following the US withdrawal from Afghanistan, students may have questions about those fleeing the country and seeking refugee from the Taliban.
This is why we need to be having conversations with students around why refugees are coming to the UK, why we should demonstrate compassion, and the harmful impact of fake news on minority groups.
Connections to the curriculum
- English: choose a Class Reader from this list of books about refugees and asylum seekers
- Science and mathematics: draw attention to refugee scientists and mathematicians who have contributed to the topics which you are teaching.
- History: teach about other moments in human history where people have had to leave their homes and seek refuge in other places
- Geography: discuss the human and geographical causes of migration and the circumstances behind people’s need to leave their homes
- RE: make connections between religious stories such as the Christian nativity story and how we are taught to treat refugees. Apply the teachings of the Golden Rule to the refugee crisis.
How to approach it
Invite students to read stories:
Putting themselves in other people’s shoes is the best way to develop empathy and respect for those who have faced different circumstances to our own. Stories, both fictional and biographical, are an engaging and inspiring way to give students access to the challenges and difficult decisions that refugees and asylum seekers face. Check out BookTrust’s list of recommended books in our Connections to the curriculum section.
Teach critical literacy skills and how to spot fake or misleading news:
Teaching your students how to spot fake news is a vital life skill, especially when people’s lives are at risk, so it’s important to teach your pupils where to go to find accurate information, and how to fact check anything they are unsure about. Teaching students to question and analyse the information they’re presented with is also a great way to encourage and practice critical thinking, as teaching your students how to think (not what to think) is a good way to help them feel empowered in their own choices.
Encourage open and honest questions:
Students will be curious and perhaps confused and even anxious about why people are coming to the UK to seek asylum and refuge. By allowing them to ask questions we can reassure them that it’s ok not to fully understand, and to seek advice or information on a topic. Let them know that, if you don’t know the answer to their questions, you can go and check the answer - and give them the chance to undertake their own research too.
Empower students to make a difference:
When we are faced with a crisis, it can sometimes feel overwhelming and upsetting, but there are plenty of things that your students can do to make a difference. These include fundraising for charities who support refugees, such as Choose Love, donating clothing or camping equipment which they no longer need, writing to MPs and raising awareness of the issues faced by refugees and asylum seekers to their family and friends.