Trinity College Dublin: Improving academic performance, emotional well-being and social integration for migrant and refugee children

Too many migrant and refugee children in Europe today do not have their basic needs for education and wellbeing fulfilled. Since 2015, Europe has experienced its largest refugee crisis since World War II. Many of the refugees arriving in Europe are children and unaccompanied minors. The children have experienced displacement, separation from loved ones, and – very often – exposure to violence.

Ensuring that the children and youth have access to quality education and a protective learning environment is key to restoring their emotional security and sense of place. Now a team of researchers in Trinity College Dublin together with European partner institutions are working on the REFUGE-ED project, which aims to foster socially inclusive, supportive learning environments for refugee children, unaccompanied minors, and the hosting communities.

Schools, parents, and communities will be actively involved in choosing and implementing the actions that best fit their needs.

A team of researchers at Trinity, together with colleagues at partner institutions from Spain, Italy, Bulgaria, Greece, Denmark, and Sweden, have received European Union funding for the REFUGE-ED project. Researchers are using an evidence-based approach to identify practices in education and mental health that have already proven to have a positive impact on the academic success, well-being, and sense of belonging for migrant and refugee children. In close collaboration with educators, students, parents and communities, the research team explores how these practices can be adapted and scaled to meet the specific local needs at any educational institution in the European Union.



Dr Sadhbh Byrne, postdoctoral research fellow on the REFUGE-ED project at the Centre for Global Health, Trinity College Dublin, said:

We know that the resettlement stage is critical for young migrants and refugees, in terms of mitigating the impact of disrupted schooling, and the adversity and trauma that often accompanies their journeys. However, it can be difficult for educators to know the best approach for supporting migrant and refugee students in their setting. With the REFUGE-ED project, we aim to bring together the existing evidence on ‘what works’, collaborate with children, their families, and schools to identify the practices that best meet their needs, and then put these into practice.

Dr Leslie Snider, director of the Mental Health and Psychosocial Support Collaborative, Save the Children, Denmark said:

We know that there is a strong connection between learning, emotional wellbeing, and social belonging. For refugee children and unaccompanied minors, these factors become particularly important. Many have disrupted education, are suffering the mental health consequences of their experiences before, during and after their journey, and are struggling to find their feet in a new country, community, and culture. When schools work with both the academic, social, and mental health aspect of education in a community-based way and based on what science indicates that works, we have a powerful potential to help a lot of children improve their lives.

Forty-six schools, institutional care facilities, and reception centres in Spain, Italy, Greece, Ireland, Sweden, and Bulgaria have been selected to participate in the project. A Dublin city primary school is one of the selected sites and will be working with the Trinity team to implement and evaluate a range of practices to support migrant and refugee students.

The project team will be sharing their learning with the wider educational community through a platform launched at the end of the project. This platform will provide all the knowledge and training necessary to roll out the practices for enhancing educational success, emotional wellbeing, and a sense of belonging for migrant and refugee students at any European school.

Comments are closed.