Blog: How to support refugee families

Over the last few months, local authorities across the country have been welcoming Afghan refugees under the Operation Warm Welcome scheme. A key part of successfully welcoming refugees and enabling them to integrate into communities is the provision of education. Whilst schools often provide a place for refugee children to make friends and learn more about their new home, adults can find it difficult to access education that helps them integrate into communities. At Campaign for Learning, we’re interested in setting out what more can be done to support the whole family, adults included.  


Schools: Supporting both the child and the adult

In a recent blog, The Bell Foundation highlighted four key considerations for schools welcoming refugee children from Afghanistan. Their advice includes supporting and engaging not just with children, but with their families too. This sound advice can be applied to Afghan refugees and other refugee and bilingual families.   
Tips from The Bell Foundation on working with families:  

  • Support parents to understand the school system with resources in their home language 
  • Use clear simple English for communications where it is not possible to translate 
  • Build trust and use a partnership approach 
  • Ensure names are pronounced correctly 
  • Help families to deal with social isolation  


Family learning: A long-term approach to helping refugee families

Adults and families can be supported further when schools and community learning providers develop a family learning approach. Family learning involves setting learning outcomes for both children and adult family members. It enables families to develop a culture of learning in the home which has wider positive impacts on both adults and children. This helps create a space in which families can build trust, develop language skills and feel more confident integrating into their new communities.   

Foufou Savitsky, Family Learning and Literacy Education Specialist at Learning Unlimited, is an expert in working with bilingual, migrant and refugee families. Foufou understands from first-hand experience how family learning makes a difference to migrant and refugee family lives. She says

"Developing a family learning approach can be hugely beneficial when integrating refugee (and bilingual) families into their local communities. When starting this process, it is vital to put yourself into their shoes with two key questions:  

1. What would I want or need in this situation?   
2. What would my priorities be?  

Starting with a flexible and person-centred approach will help you to listen to their individual needs and understand how you might need to adapt to the language and emphasis of your learning offer. "

Finally, FouFou explains that it’s important to continue your outreach over a long period of time,

“Refugee adults are constantly meeting different professionals in roles they’ve now heard of, it will take time to develop relationships and explain how family learning could be helpful to them.” 

Gurpreet Keila is Deputy Director (Projects) at the Campaign for Learning