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Helping Ukrainian children settle into school

This is advice for school staff and teachers who are expecting refugee children, from Ukraine or elsewhere, to soon be admitted into their classrooms.

Short-Term
  • It is helpful to start with the admissions process: make sure you start by inviting the families into school with the students so that they can begin to be familiar with the school and meet key staff before the first day. It is very helpful if one member of staff in particular is identified and introduced as the key point of contact for the family. In an individual admissions meeting with a professional interpreter with the family make sure to do a full assessment of the child’s abilities, needs and interests – don’t presume they are new to English, check for other languages spoken and make sure to link them with extracurriculars that interest them. Check if the students also have any special educational needs. Explain things like the school day/ uniform requirements/ school rules/ where toilets are/ where to go if they don’t know what to do.
  • In terms of an initial induction period, it would be helpful to have a well-planned time-limited induction period to help students become familiar with the new school system/ rules/ behaviours and build solidarity amongst them. Some children (but perhaps not all) might also benefit from some additional English classes to start off within this period – focus on key words and chunks of language that will help them in their first weeks at school rather than grammar/spelling. This induction shouldn’t be all day (at other times they will be supported by their buddy – see below) and shouldn’t go on beyond a couple of weeks.
  • Make sure each child is matched with a peer who will be in their classes. It might be helpful to have some informal training for these buddies – make sure they understand that their role is to support and include the new students, who they can go to if their buddy is having problems, etc. Introduce the new student to their buddy on the first day.
  • Make sure to give each student a Ukrainian/English dictionary on the first day and include a session on using them in the induction class. Look at buying dual-language books.
  • We have heard wonderful stories of students arriving on their first days to see Ukrainian flags hanging in school with words of welcome in Ukrainian – there doesn’t need to be an overt welcome assembly but instead visible symbols of welcome around the school site.
Long-term
  • Become a School of Sanctuary! We can work with you to adopt a holistic approach to promoting welcome within your community and supporting students from sanctuary seeking backgrounds. In this process, you can use the School of Sanctuary audit tool to review all aspects of school practice to best achieve this.
  • Give opportunities for the wider school community to develop their understanding of migration to build solidarity, compassion and awareness. In areas with little recent history or visible signs of immigration we recommend focusing on existing family connections to migration and local area histories of migration, see: Family and Local Area Connections to Migration. Then recommend moving to looking at why people move and how and how that might affect their experiences arriving in the UK.
Key Resources
If you find the advice and the resources we offer useful, please consider donating to our fundraiser: Schools of Sanctuary appeal.