Teachers need assistance in learning how to integrate refugee children who have experienced trauma into Irish schools, according to the Immigrant Council of Ireland (ICI).
Commenting on a British initiative which saw teachers in Northern Ireland sent to German schools in order to learn from their integration techniques Sr Stan, the founder of ICI, described it as a “positive development” that would be “extremely welcome in the Republic of Ireland”.
“Children are extremely resilient, but practical and emotional assistance like language classes, provision of books and other classroom materials plus improved understanding of their cultures is essential for those who have experienced the trauma of displacement and perilous journeys,” Sr Stan said.
Three teachers who took part in a British Council international study trip learned how Berlin’s education system supports refugee children through ‘welcome classes’. They visited their Education Senate, rehabilitation centres, four schools and the German Children and Youth Foundation.
Nigel Arnold, the principal of Glengormley Integrated PS which is an accredited international primary school, took part in the trip. He told The Irish News: “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 added that the experience was “moving” and the German system has a more “joined-up” approach between education and other public services.
Sr Stan acknowledged the “extraordinary” work done by teachers, but said “the nature and scale of what these young people have been through requires additional focus and resources to ensure schools have the time and space to provide adequate support to what is often an impoverished and highly vulnerable group of children”.
She added that efforts to integrate children into schools would help families integrate into the wider community.
The Department of Education were contacted for comment but did not respond before print deadline.