Education news

Teachers share best practice on integrating refugee schoolchildren

The teachers took part in a British Council International Study Visit to Berlin

THREE teachers are to share their knowledge on integrating refugee children into schools.

Nigel Arnold (Glengormley IPS), Ian Gilchrist (Millburn PS) and Kierna Corr (Windmill IPS) took part in a British Council international study visit to Berlin.

There, they learned about the integration of refugee schoolchildren and how Berlin's education system supports newcomers through `welcome classes'.

They will today share their new knowledge at a British Council Professional Development Workshop, taking place at Riddel Hall in Belfast.

While in Berlin, the trio made visits to the Education Senate, rehabilitation centres, four schools and the German Children & Youth Foundation; aiming to discover new ways of integrating newcomer pupils in Northern Ireland.

Mr Arnold is principal of Glengormley Integrated PS, which is an accredited international primary school, comprising more than 22 different nations.

"Out of 350 pupils, currently 56 speak English as an additional language and I'm always keen to learn new ways and methods for making new pupils welcome," he said.

"Our time in Berlin was a very moving experience as the schools there are dealing with a problem on a much larger scale compared to here in Northern Ireland, and the experience really made me think. We met pupils from Afghanistan and Syria, who have had to grow up so quickly and are really quite inspirational.

Mr Arnold said even though he understood the need for Berlin's Welcome classes, specifically for newcomer children to learn German language and culture, he believed what was done in the north was better, "where newcomer children are immersed into classes and feel included and less detached from their classmates".

"What I did take from Berlin though, is that they have a more joint-up approach between education and other public services including social services and NGOs - with social workers dedicated to schools. There's more of a shared ownership and responsibility – and it's not all left to the schools," he added.

"Here school principals in particular are an easy port of call and it eats in to your day. With more support, we would love to reach out more to families, and as groups of communities grow, help these new arrivals."

Jonathan Stewart, deputy director at British Council Northern Ireland, said international study visits aimed to inspire new approaches to teaching across the curriculum.

"Visits like this are extremely important for actively raising the awareness among teachers about the importance of sharing ideas and information on a global scale," he said.

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