The NUT (England and Wales) responded to the British Government’s All Party Parliamentary Group Inquiry – "Refugees Welcome? Experiences of new refugees in the UK" launched in July 2016.  In its response the NUT called for:

  • Recognition of the key frontline role that primary and secondary schools have in receiving and making refugees welcome in the UK
  • Teachers to have resources, training and support to enable them to personalise the curriculum and their assessment strategies to support the learning of refugee children. Support for teachers in working with refugee children. The NUT has produced relevant guidance which can be found at
  • The Inquiry to recommend that Government properly resource the collection of centralised data, maintenance of up-to-date resources in line with best practice, and sensible planning for refugee children in schools. 
  • The Inquiry  to urge Government to maintain probity and adhere to the Information Privacy Principles in the collection and use of personal information regarding refugee children. 
  • The government to support schools effectively in order that all children, and particularly vulnerable refugee children, feel safe and secure in education,  given recent tensions over immigration in the post-Brexit environment, where a number of schools featured in racist incidents immediately after the referendum.
  • The Inquiry to recommend to Government that vital funding for  refugee education worker and EAL posts be restored to local authorities. Further, delegation of funding to individual schools means only a minority of local authorities and schools continue to fund and implement programmes to support refugee children and employ the necessary EAL and Refugee Support Teachers.  In many areas of the country they have been cut entirely. Services are patchy, lacking in central direction and not connected to latest evidence-informed practice at a time when there are growing numbers of refugee children and other children with increased EAL requirements.


On Monday 24 October, the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention called on the Government of the United States of America to abolish the mandatory detention of migrants, especially asylum seekers, from all countries.

“Mandatory detention of migrants, especially asylum-seekers, is against international law standards,” the expert panel stressed at the end of its first official visit to the country, while urging the authorities to ensure individual assessment for detention of asylum seekers, including women, men and children.

“While immigration detention should be civil, i.e. non-punitive, in nature, we observed during our visits to various immigration facilities that people are being detained under punitive conditions that are often indistinguishable from those applicable to persons subject to criminal punishment,” said the Group’s delegation comprised by human rights experts Seong-Phil Hong, José Guevara, and Leigh Toomey.

“The detention of migrants appears to be implemented as a deterrent to immigration and to the continuation of legitimate immigration claims,” the experts said. “Migrants who vigorously pursue claims for relief from removal face substantially longer detention periods than those who concede removability, and subsequently have a record of entry that can be the basis to deny re-entry in the future. Moreover, mandatory detention can cause asylum seekers to revoke legitimate claims.” 

The Working Group also expressed concern about the practice of separating families and urged the US Government to end the detention of families and children, including unaccompanied children, in the context of migration and make concrete efforts to explore alternatives to detention.

The Working Group’s full end-of-mission statement is available here.





Confronted with a dramatic increase of refugees from neighbouring countries in conflict, the Greek Federation of Secondary State School Teachers is calling for solidarity to see that all children receive an education.

The Greek Federation of Secondary State School Teachers (OLME) President and General Secretary are urging the Greek Government to seek special funding to cover the costs of creating proper reception and accommodation centres for refugees. These centres are to provide food, health care, translation and legal services in decent living conditions. The OLME also asked the Government to ensure access to education for all children who will remain in Greece, adding that the necessary infrastructure and proper conditions should be provided for their smooth transition.

A lost generation

The union’s call comes as a recent UNICEF report, ‘Education Under Fire,’ exposed the harsh reality facing refugees, in particular children. It stated that, due to the wars in the Middle East and North Africa, 13 million children have been left without access to education. In addition, 9,000 schools in the Middle East are not operating and about 700,000 refugee children do not attend school because the existing school facilities cannot accommodate the increased number of additional schoolchildren.

Since the Balkan states closed their borders in March, thousands of refugee children in Greece have had little or no access to education. Rights organisations have warned of a “lost generation” of refugee children missing out on education. 

OLME: Call for solidarity and dialogue

 “We invite the local teacher unions and the teachers to lead the way once again,” said the OLME leadership in its 18 September statement. “We invite them to show their solidarity to refugees and immigrants in a concrete manner by organising or joining actions that aim to provide all kinds of material and moral support to refugees. At the same time, we invite them to lead discussions within the school community aiming to make young people aware of the issues pertaining to refugees and immigrants. Racist perceptions and discrimination against refugees and immigrants have no place within the education system nor within the Greek society.”

In response, local teacher unions, schools, and students have undertaken various initiatives showing their solidarity towards refugees.

Financial assistance

The OLME Executive Board has allocated funding to local teacher unions directly experiencing a higher influx of refugees; this funding is to be used to secure humanitarian aid. OLME intends to support mobilisations along with the people’s movement, to support every effort stemming either from schools or the wider social context to consolidate a society of freedom, equality and respect for human rights.

“Funding is key to the implementation of the above-mentioned educational plan,” said the OLME leadership. To date, €7 million has been used for the construction of host centres, training of teachers and teacher trainers, and the production of school textbooks. Moreover, €2.8 million is to be provided by the International Organisation for Migration to pay for children’s transportation to and from reception classes and school cleaning until December 2016.

Long-term plans

In addition, the Greek Ministry of Education hasdeveloped an induction programme for refugee children within the Greek formal educational system, addressing educational and pedagogical considerations. Of the 27,000 refugee children stranded in Greece, at least 18,000 are thought to be of school age. For the past seven months, children in camps have only had access to casual volunteer-run classes. The Ministry estimates that, towards end-September, the first reception classes will begin and other ‘regular’ classes will gradually follow, with thousands of refugee and migrant children being enrolled in Greek schools.

Meanwhile, teachers appointed to refugee reception classes and host centres for the education of refugees are receiving special training. Since the number of Greek teachers qualified to teach the children’s native languages is not sufficient, the Ministry has invited NGOs to contribute human resources.

The OLME is adamant, however, that this initial stage of reception classes should be followed by the integration of all refugee children within the mainstream school community.

EI refugee conference

Education International will be holding a conference, on the theme “Education of refugee children – Fast track to equal opportunities and integration” from 21-22 November in Stockholm, Sweden. This event will be a unique opportunity to showcase education unions’ work worldwide to ensure that refugee and migrant children get a proper education. It will also highlight unions’ efforts to ensure that refugee and migrant teachers receive good training and work and living conditions. And it will reaffirm that education is a human right of which nobody should be deprived, regardless of their circumstances.

Photo credits: Alessandra Aldini. The picture was taken in a camp of Thessaloniki during a field mission organised by the italian union UIL to support refugees living in the camps (e.g. distribution of books to children, etc.). More information on UIL's activities about refugees are available here.


The German education union GEW has placed special focus on the relationship between integration and democracy after hosting its national congress under the slogan “One for all – an inclusive school for democracy.”

The need to place schools at the centre of any inclusion policy was highlighted at the national congress of GEW, a member of Education International (EI), which took place at Frankfurt University at the End of September.

Over 400 participants heard a call for “a common and non-exclusive learning process” when determining education policy. The appeal was made by education specialist Dieter Katzenbach and underscored GEW’s demands for an education system that helps overcome social divisions.

According to statistics, 890,000 asylum seekers arrived in Germany last year.

“Many people do not believe any more in social integration through education,” stressed Ilka Hoffmann, member of the GEW governing body, adding that the role of unions is to “counter this tendency”.

EI: Education at heart of democracy

Education International’s  Deputy General Secretary Haldis Holst presented a keynote speech on the topic of ‘Transformation’. Holst explained EI’s policy regarding a human-rights based inclusion, highlighting the key role played by education in the achievement and incorporation of democratic values in a society. “Democracy is complicated,” she said. “It must be learned. It must be experienced. And learned again.” She firmly placed schools and education at the centre of the “process of learning to live together”.

Holst drew on the OECD Equity and Quality in Education reports to highlight that equity and quality enhance rather than exclude each other. “It is crucial for all actors in the education field to understand how and why inequalities multiply and intersect with each other, leading to the exclusion of already vulnerable children from quality education,” she said, while referring to EI’s Education Policy Paper, which focuses on the intersection of inequalities

The Opetusalan Ammattijärjestö, together with the Finnish trade union movement, has backed a demonstration against racism and violent right-wing extremism which received widespread national public support.

The demonstration, held in Helsinki at the end of September, was organised in response to the death of a 28-year-old Finnish man assaulted during a neo-Nazi rally earlier that month. At the demonstration, over 15,000 people joined together to fight a culture of silence that only nurtures those who seek to spread hate, according to the organisers.

The trade union movement strongly supported the action, with all three trade union confederations - Akava, SAK and STTK - encouraging their members to participate.

OAJ: Act needed against racism

“There must be zero tolerance for discrimination,” said Opetusalan Ammattijärjestö (OAJ) President Olli Luukkainen. He said Finnish teachers are “very much committed to fairness and pluralism, as an integral part of their ethics”.

Speeches are not enough, action is needed to defend tolerance, he added. This is why education sector unions have challenged all Finnish teachers and students to eradicate bullying, discrimination and hate speeches through one big campaign, he explained. The campaign’s patron is the President of the Republic, Sauli Niinistö.

The “Strong together” anti-hate campaign encourages all teachers to address the topic in their classes and promote events creating a sense of community.

“Skin colour or other human characteristics must not affect people’s ability to live fully their everyday live, get education, a job or access services,” said Luukkainen. “This is a human rights issue, so racism is clearly a crime.”

Across the country, teachers are already preparing various creative events using visual arts, music and literature. The recommended day of action is 11 November.