Teachers' Christian Fellowship of NSW

Working with refugee students

Disclaimer: This article is the opinion of the author and does not necessarily reflect that of all Teachers' Christian Fellowship members.

Working with refugee students


Schools play a vital role in supporting students with refugee backgrounds to resettle into a new country. Supportive school cultures can improve students’ mental health and wellbeing, enhance educational outcomes, and promote social connections between families and school communities.

refugee girl

Schools are uniquely positioned to support recovery, build resilience, and reduce the vulnerability of students of refugee backgrounds.

Schools, beyond their role in providing education, are well placed to promote social inclusion, support freedom from discrimination, and provide important life and work skills. By taking a wholeschool approach, schools can implement a range of strategies to support these students.


Teachers play a key role in supporting students from refugee backgrounds to reach their academic potential and improve wellbeing outcomes. The impact of teachers provides additional and proactive support to assist students to improve their English language skills. Loneliness and isolation are common feelings for students. The positive impact of teachers and school staff can help students of refugee backgrounds to form new friendships.

Motivating students by providing help can show significant language improvements in as little as a month. In any class, everything depends on the teacher. The way they teach, matters to the students.

In supporting these students, teachers also need to take an approach based on students’ strengths to make informed decisions regarding careers and other future education pathways.


Students from refugee backgrounds benefit from the provision of extra learning support in a school. For example: setting up mentors and homework clubs.

Teachers have an important role to play in creating a classroom environment where students feel confident to participate in class discussions.

Students feel supported in their learning when teachers utilise EAL (English as an Additional Language refers to learners whose first language is not English) strategies, such as using glossaries and visual cues to support written content; hands-on activities and provide students with opportunities to attend excursions.

Students of refugee background may also need additional support to access and use technology.

Students want to be actively involved with their teachers in developing plans to address the gaps in their learning (for example, choosing between modified or unmodified work).

Challenges for schools in supporting refugee students.

Does your school:

Support Services and Resources

Supporting Refugee Students – Extensive list of education, health and community support services.

Teaching Strategies for EAL Students – speaking & listening, writing, reading & viewing.

6 Tips for Teaching EAL Pupils

Lyn Searle, Teacher, Chester Hill Intensive Language Centre