Forcibly displaced children’s journey may last several years before they and their family settle in their final destination country with their family. Once attained this goal, getting enrolled in school may not be an absolute priority, having to deal with many pressing issues such as administrative procedures, securing accommodation, healthcare, etc. 

As a consequence, getting back to school for those children, kept away from classrooms for such a long time when  they had a chance to attend school at all – is not a linear path. And very often, these children leave the school much faster than they got into it.

To prevent these situations, two Belgian teachers, Marie Pierrard et Juliette Pirlet, created la Petite Ecole which supports children and families in their integration process in education. The objective of la Petite Ecole is beyond getting children enrolled in school, getting them succeed. It offers them a smooth transition period in which they get used to being away from their families, learn the language but above all, the basic social rules and behaviours that they’re expected to follow when at school and finally, build the self-esteem they’ll need to take up this new challenge. The project is very much oriented towards developing an individual approach for each child and prioritises building a solid trust relationship between the school and the parents which is key to the academic success of the newly enrolled students.

It has been run since February 2016 and hosts in two classes an average of 12 children aged from 6 to 15 and coming from all regions of the world (Syria, Guinea, Senegal, Morocco, etc). Several institutions collaborate with the initiative to accompany children and offer them a broad range of support activities: sports, psychological assistance, artistic activities, etc. 

The transition period spent at la Petite Ecole is decided on a case-by-case basis according to children’s and families’ readiness. The project’s team accompanies them during the enrolment process by contacting the schools, presenting the child’s situation, showing the school, etc.

Since January 2017, « La petite école des devoirs » has been created to provide homework support to alumnis and maintain contact with children and families that once attended La petite école.

On December 18-19, 2017 the Polish Teachers' Union and the Foundation for Social Diversity organised a conference in Warsaw entitled "Teachers for high quality education of students and students with migration experience". The conference concluded an 18-month project aiming to improve refugees’ and migrants’ education in Poland. 

Among other things, it aimed to: 

  • improve procedures related to psychological and pedagogical counselling of diagnoses of students and students with migration experience;
  • present proposals for activities to prepare schools for the admission of pupils and students with migration experience, their integration in the school environment and cooperation with their families;
  • familiarize with the role of intercultural assistants and legal conditions of their employment in schools;
  • exchange experiences between representatives of schools and clinics from Gdańsk and Warsaw;
  • discuss the latest changes in regulations and the first results of their implementation.

During the two-days conference, the 50 participants had the opportunity to discuss the role of local governments – with examples from Warsaw and Gdańsk - in shaping local policies for including students and students and their families in the life of local communities; first experiences of preparatory classes/ welcome classes in Warsaw presented by experts from Warsaw Centre for Socio-Educational Innovation and Training; how to recognise a child's facing posttraumatic stress; the role of intercultural assistants and legal rules for employing assistants and non-governmental organizations at school; and how to build coalitions with parents of foreign students in schools. 

At the end of the conference, participants decided to continue cooperation, which will be supported by representatives of local authorities of both cities involved in the project.

 SNUipp-FSU, in collaboration with the NGO Solidarité Laïque and the parents’ association FCPE  just released a child-friendly booklet entitled « We’re above all children: stop false myths about migrants and refugees ».

The union used to support the project « Ecole Laïque du chemin des Dunes » providing education and training opportunities to refugees in the Calais Jungle before its dismantlement.

As prejudices about refugees spread across Europe following the so called 2015 « crisis », the union decided to step up its efforts in favour of refugees’ and migrants’ rights.

The objective of this publication is to improve inclusion by informing and sensitising  elementary-aged children and their families concerning real facts and figures about migration, migrants’ - and especially children’s - rights and in particular, their right to education.

The booklet was developed with a team of different partners bringing in different perspectives and expertise. It was tested with children and finalised according to their feedback, to come up with a simple resource, that is easy to understand for them and fit for classroom activities.

So far, 10 000 copies have been printed and distribution is starting to reach out to local structures and partners.

An accompanying leaflet is being developed for parents and teachers willing to deepen their knowledge of the essential concepts, procedures and actors involved in refugees’ and migrants’ integration.

Audiovisual material is also being assembled to present the project to a broader audience online and in training activities directed to grassroots members.



The European region of EI, ETUCE, and EFEE join forces to develop a new project called ‘European Sectoral Social Partners in Education promoting effective integration of migrants and refugees in education’. The project, co-funded by the European Commission, and carried out from 2017 to 2019, is a direct answer from education social partners to the crisis of migrants and refugees, and the ensuing deprivation of access to quality education for migrants and refugees. The new two-year project is aimed at creating a sustainable framework for social partners in education to support schools and education institutions, teachers, trainers and school leaders dealing with students of migrant origin. The project is to be overseen by an advisory group, composed by employer organisations from the European Federation of Education Employers (EFEE), ETUCE and its member organisations in Denmark (DLF), Belgium (ACOD-CSGP), Cyprus (OELMEK), Slovenia (SVIZ-ESTUS), Spain (FeSP-UGT) and Serbia (TUS).

According to a 2017 Eurostat study, in 2016, around 32% of the total number of first time applicants for asylum in Europe were minors aged less than 18 years old. Additionally, a 2016 Eurofound study reports that “although the school-age children of asylum seekers are entitled to attend compulsory education in all Member States, special arrangements for these children are not always guaranteed. Some countries reported that schools are ill-prepared to receive these children.” Social partners in education have grown increasingly alarmed with this situation, as it furthers unacceptable inequalities for these vulnerable groups, and inherently hinders the integration of migrants and refugees in society in the longer term.

Through a research on existing practices and policies regarding the integration of migrants and refugees in education systems in Europe, case-study visits in those countries who have received a sudden and large influx of migrants since 2015, as well as through a series of training seminars, education social partners will work towards developing a set of practical guidelines and a quality framework of effective practices and policies for the integration of migrants and refugees in education. A video documentary will further raise the attention of the wide public on the situation experienced in schools by learners of migrant origin. All the outcomes are to be disseminated at a conference to be held in 2019.

“Crossing the doorstep of a school is no guarantee of quality learning”, said Susan Flocken, ETUCE European Director, “ETUCE and EFEE are committed to work together for a successful educational experience of migrant and refugee students across Europe. This implies undertaking measures to cater for the specific needs of those students, but also for the needs of schools and the teaching personnel working with young migrants and targeting issues such as language acquisition, psychosocial counselling and intercultural competences.”

To see the dedicated webpage for the project, please click here.

Education should be at the core of the new Global Compact for Migration, according to Education International, commenting on the importance of a whole-of-society approach to migration at the local and national level.

UN member states, and indeed all governments, are obliged to guarantee the human rights of all migrants. That’s according to Education International (EI) Dennis Sinyolo. “These rights are encapsulated in existing United Nations (UN) Covenants and Conventions.”

Sinyolo made his remarks during a panel on national perspectives of the whole-of-society approach to facilitate safe, orderly and regular migration. The panel was held during informal multi-stakeholder hearings before the Global Compact for migration and the intergovernmental conference on international migration. This was held on 18 December at the United Nations (UN) headquarters in New York, USA.

The hearing provided an opportunity for participants to discuss the need for cooperation and partnerships between different segments of society, including civil society, the private sector, diaspora communities, migrants, local and national authorities, schools, academia and others to develop and implement a coherent and whole-of-society approach to migration.

The President of the UN General Assembly, Miroslav Lajcak, explained that “we are here to look at how migration affects local authorities. We want to go beyond the national level, and look at the examples of good practices at the local level, and how migrants can contribute to local communities, e.g. through their skills”.

The intergovernmental negotiation process on the Global Compact on Migration, he reminded the audience, will start in February 2018, and demands that “listen to many different actors, especially those who implement migration laws and policies such as nurses, teachers and law enforcement”.

Stressing that on International Migrants Day, there is no better way to celebrate it than to present proposals on how to address the challenges affecting migrants, he emphasised the need for a whole-of-society and whole government approach and to listen to everyone.

Social dialogue 

The point of departure in ensuring an effective whole-of society approach to managing migration is two-fold, Sinyolo explained:

(1) All governments, including those of host and transit countries, should ratify and fully implement the provisions of UN and International Labour Organisation (ILO) migrant, labour and other relevant Conventions.

(2) Governments should ensure the establishment of institutionalised mechanisms for social dialogue.

Genuine consultation and dialogue with migrant workers through their representative organisations, and trade unions in particular, is of paramount importance, given that most migrants move in search of decent work, he underlined.

The advocacy role and actions of trade unions, civil society, and other partners should not be under-estimated, Sinyolo said. These organisations have worked hard to ensure that migrants are not denied access to the basic necessities of life and public services such as health and education, or to justice due to their immigration status.

EI: Defending education rights of migrants and refugees

Education International has been working with national affiliates, youth organisations, students and local communities to defend and promote the education rights of migrant and refugee children and youth in several European and other countries, Sinyolo said.

Educators and their unions have long been fighting for undocumented children to have access to quality education and challenged their detention in camps, he said. EI has also provided training and professional development to local sand migrant and refugee teachers, so that they are able to meet the specific needs of migrants and refugees, including psychosocial support and language training.

“Education is the greatest antidote to the scourge of xenophobia, racism and discrimination as it can help inculcate and foster the values of intercultural understanding, respect, tolerance and peaceful coexistence.” Indeed, education equips migrant and refugee children and youth with the necessary skills for life and work, he said, emphasising that education should be at the core of the new Global Compact.

“The whole-of-society approach can only be achieved if all countries and governments take the lead in creating a migrant and refugee-friendly environment, both legislative and socio-economic,” he said. “We need to take bold and giant steps forward, with none of us stepping out or aside, because the global governance of migration is a mutual endeavour involving all sending, transit and destination countries.”

He concluded by stressing the need for the UN and governments to continue to involve trade unions and civil society in the intergovernmental negotiation process, prompting a response from the President of the UN General Assembly who announced that he would convene two more hearings/consultations in February and May 2018.