2.C Settlement and Integration
C.6 How is education treated?
(x) What can schools do to welcome refugees?
How Canada Does It
Canada’s resettlement of 25,000 Syrian refugees in 2015-2016 prompted a variety of welcoming responses from schools across Canada to welcome refugees, including enhancements to pre-existing in-school supports such as:
- Trauma counselling;
- Targeted support from and for teachers to assist refugee students in understanding expected conduct within schools (e.g. use of bathroom facilities, communication with adults, handling classroom materials);
- Minimizing potential triggers related to previous trauma such as dark corridors and explaining bells, fire alarms, and evacuation drills;
- Forging connections between teachers and parents including through the use of translated materials;
- Supporting teachers’ professional learning;
- Developing enhanced learning supports to meet individual needs; and
- Expanding community networks for targeted services, including through the use of cultural brokers, interpreters, settlement workers, and cultural liaison workers.
A number of schools in Canada have taken extra steps to welcome refugees. For example, some school boards across the country transferred staff fluent in Arabic to schools with a high population of Syrian students to assist children and parents from Syria in adjusting to their new environment. As part of their strategy to put children at ease, students are not discouraged from speaking Arabic to one another. Other schools, e.g. Dewson Street Public School in Toronto, have taken the initiative to engage their student bodies to directly sponsor refugees themselves.
Some school boards in provinces across Canada leveraged the work of community agencies including settlement organizations to provide services targeted to students and their families. Services include a Wellness Hub, which serves as a hub for school counselling, a refugee transition centre to teach Canadian life skills, and training for teachers to attend workshops on war-affected students. Other supports include after school programs for parents, students and other community members, on-site social support workers and prayer rooms. Many schools across Canada also partner with Settlement Workers in Schools, which places workers from settlement organizations in schools to provide holistic support to refugee students, parents, and school staff to promote successful integration into the school environment and community more broadly (see 2.C.6(viii)).