On the occasion of the Universal Children's Day on 20 November, health professionals, teachers, students, parents, artists, writers, academics, elected officials of the left and the right as well as organisations working to promote children's and human rights joined forces to submit to the Federal Council an Appeal against the blind application of the Dublin regulation. The organisations intend, among other things, to remind Switzerland of its obligations to protect refugee children and their families and call on the federal authorities to process the asylum application of persons who arrived in Switzerland from another European country, when humanitarian and compassionate grounds so warrant.

In total, 33,000 people and over 200 organisations, including the three Swiss paediatric societies (SSP, SSPPEA and SSCP) and the umbrella organisation of Swiss teachers' associations (LCH) and the Union of Romand Teachers (Syndicat des Enseignants Romands - SER) have signed the Dublin Appeal launched internationally in late April.  

At a press conference, Raphaël Comte (PLR Advisor to the States), Mattea Meyer (PS National Advisor), Franziska Peterhans (Central Secretary of the LCH, the umbrella organisation of Swiss teachers' associations) and Dr. Hélène Beutler (Co-President of the Swiss Society of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and Psychotherapy) relayed the concerns of this broad spectrum of support to the Dublin Appeal and advocated for a more humane application of the Dublin Regulation.

The national coalition also sent a letter to Federal Advisor Ms. Simonetta Sommaruga and to the executives of all cantons, asking for a meeting to discuss the Appeal's demands.  

At present, under the Dublin regulation, children are torn out of their classrooms mid-year or have to stop medical or psychological treatment. Some of them are even separated from one of their parents in violation of the best interest of the child and the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.  

Yet, the Dublin Regulation itself provides for taking account the vulnerability of people when it is applied. "On humanitarian and compassionate grounds, in order to bring together family members", Switzerland can activate the discretionary clause provided by Article 17 subparagraph 1 of the Regulation and examine asylum applications.  

The Appeal against the blind application of the Dublin Regulation does not require a change in the law, nor a change in the asylum policy, but simply a change in the administrative practices used in the context of the application of the Dublin Regulation. It is an appeal to common sense: it is about better protecting vulnerable refugees, as provided for in the regulation.  

Switzerland has the highest number of Dublin transfers in Europe

Switzerland applies the Dublin Regulation scrupulously, since it has the highest number of transfers in Europe. In 2016, Switzerland transferred 3,750 individuals under the Dublin Regulation; it only received 469 individuals under the same regulation. Although Germany and Sweden have higher numbers of Dublin transfers (respectively 3,968 and 5,244 in 2016), they have also receive higher numbers of individuals under the Dublin Regulation (respectively 12,091 and 3,306). In 2016, over one third of all asylum applications filed in Switzerland received a decision of "non-entry under the Dublin Regulation" despite a sharp fall in the number of asylum applications (39,523 in 2015, 27,207 in 2016, 13,916 between 1.1 and 30.9.2017).

Thoughts from GEW Conference “Good Education for Refugees”, Bremen (20th September 2017) by Nick Strauss, GEW Bremen State branch.

The German federal election results of the 24th of September this year, will lead concerns for many of our friends and colleagues outside of Germany. When just 70 years after the defeat of Nazism in Europe, a political party like the AfD could achieve more than 10% of the vote with leaders who want to honour the achievement of the German army in World War Two and call for more new 'Germans' on placards showing a pregnant woman without her head as a baby machine … not just concern but outrage and action are all necessary.

Looking more closely at the results however, what's apparent is that while the Anti Islam and Anti Migrant bias of the AfD's policies were clear – the contact with the actual migrants and people who are Muslim is relatively limited. The new federal states in eastern Germany have had very few migrants until 2015. Established multicultural societies as in western Germany appear to be often the best defense against right wing 'populism.

However what are the dangers when migration occurs in a context of underfunding and a battle for limited resources amongst the working class and poor?

In 2015 some 12,000 refugees, including many young people under 18 without parents, arrived in the state of Bremen (population 670,000). Simultaneously, many migrants from poorer parts the EU were attracted by the combination of jobs and affordable housing. An education system which was already struggling with the highest levels of child poverty in Germany alongside low levels of funding (compared with other major cities) struggled to cope.

In 2016 and 2017 despite a reduction in new arrivals, the combination of inner German migration by refugees who were still allowed to move, and the limited family reunion allowed by the national government has led to continuing high levels of demand for German courses for newly arrived migrants and refugees.

The numbers according to the answer to a parliamentary question from the LEFT Party show that the courses were offered to 2,723 young people in 2016 and 2,622 young people in 2017. On the positive side there was a clear reduction in the number of young people without any formal school place from over 1,000 in early 2016 to 750 in late 2016 and down to around 320 in 2017.

However, the additional funding for the municipal governments for German courses will come to an end in December 2017. There has also been no programme of additional money announced to support the children who have completed these courses and are now learning in mainstream classes with however limited German. The pressure will build again.

That's the situation in which the GEW state branch in Bremen, with the support of Education International held a daylong conference on “Good Education for Refugees.”

Some one hundred participants attended – what on the one hand doesn't sound much has to be put into context. The state government politely declined our suggestion that teachers be enabled to attend – almost every teacher who was able to attend with the support of their school management had colleagues in their schools covering their lessons – more often than not in the compulsory unpaid overtime which is meant 'only to be used in emergencies' but nowadays … almost every day is an 'emergency'.

Up until this conference it had been only possible to mobilize staff from the preparatory courses within the relatively narrow confines of staff meetings called with statutory protection by the official staff representative committees (Personal Versammlungen called by the Betriebsrat or Personalrat-Schule.) So for our state branch, every registration was a step forward.

Our union was also pleased that some 30 colleagues who weren't union members also attended. Many of the staff working in the preparatory courses have been outsourced or are on temporary contracts – our membership amongst outsourced staff has gone up by some 50% over the last 2 years – but at around 15% we've got a long way to go. Some members will be won over during industrial action over wages and conditions – but many of the members of the GEW are committed to the union because of our education policies and support for education workers as professionals. The conference allowed us to interact with these colleagues on this level as well.

It's difficult to summarize a daylong conference into a short article – I'll try and give some of the highlights from the perspective of the organizing team.

A senator's representative spoke at the start of the day. The senator herself was unable to attend but Mr Husemann made clear his concerns for the continuation of an inclusive education system for refugee children. The schools are full so that when young people finish their preparatory course there is nowhere for them to go. In addition – Mr Husemann pointed to the continuing high levels of demand and made clear that the education system coped more or less with one shock in 2015 but continuing stresses would bring it to its knees. He thanked the staff present whom he said had saved the education's departments backside in 2015 and 2016 – and offered a way forward for qualification and recognition for the many teachers in the sector who are counted (and paid as!) 'unqualified' teachers as either their foreign qualifications are not recognized or because their degrees don't meet the model of the traditional German teaching qualification.

Professor Fantini gave the keynote address. In his work with trainee teachers at Bremen Uni he teaches among other thing intercultural education at the Faculty of Pedagogical and Educational Sciences. 

In summarizing Professor Fantini stressed the need for school systems and also individual teachers to focus on what our young people could bring to their education (orientation on resources) rather than focusing on what they couldn't do (an orientation on their deficits.) He highlighted the concept of ‘reflexive intercultural competences’, which is based on the cultural self-assessment and on the reflection of dealing with foreignness. 

The 'pre -lunch' workshops covered a range of topics including educating mainstream classes about the experiences of refugees and using new media to work with young migrants.

I attended a workshop held by Dirk Troué a representative of the tradesperson's Guilds Council of Bremen. Many small and medium manufacturing and service sector employers are very open to employing refugee apprentices. The young people bring a commitment which the employers value. The workshop discussed some of the concrete problems which the apprentices face. The vocational college part of the apprenticeship (in Germany these are carried out in part in the company and in part in a vocational college) requires language skills which are often a challenge for weaker mother tongue students and which present significant barriers for newly arrived learners of German. The necessary 'B1' qualification to start an apprenticeship did not appear to provide students with the German skills to follow the teaching in the course. Many of the attendees saw the need for an additional year of context based language learning to support these apprentices.

Another workshop was held on Intercultural Competence by Claudia Brockmann. In a context where German staff rooms reflect the senior secondary classes of 10 to 30 years ago – where significantly less than 10% of staff have got a migrant background themselves – the discussion as to how far the 'majority' has to move is significant. Clearly just explaining that 'that's how it is in Germany' isn't enough.

After lunch there were two 'praxis inputs.'

Mariam Leithe-Alkhazan who had played an important role in organizing the day (thanks!) spoke of her schools use of intercultural evenings as a way of breaking the ice between new and old students and how these were a way of showing newly arrived communities how they were valued by the school.

Lars Kaempf showed the tri-lingual web site which the voluntary sector group 'Welcome to Bremen' has developed since 2016. The website offers information of different aspects of life in Bremen for refugees and migrants.  See https://welcometobremen.de/ for more info

The day ended with 'world cafe' work and cake where the participants could input into the unions policy development for our state conference in November 2017.

Katharina Lenuck is a Bremen student who been working for the GEW in organizing the conference (thanks!!) and keeping the project on the road. She highlighted that the conference gave important input for the further work on the project in supporting and improving refugee education in Bremen. Bernd Winkelmann, spokesman for the GEW state branch in Bremen, added that the conference has confirmed again that one of the main problems in integrating refugees and migrants into the education system is the lack of investment. 

Many people living in Germany showed their fear when they went to the polls on September 24th. The GEW is clear that the AfD hasn't got answers for the problems facing working people in Germany. Some of the answers to these problems have begun to be worked on at the GEW's conference.

A fair and dynamic education system which provides opportunities for all the young people living in Germany is an important part of the solution to the economic inequality and ecological unsustainability of the German and European economy. The workers in the education system are key players - 'wir schaffen das.'

By Dr Patrick Roach, NASUWT Deputy General Secretary
Last week’s Racial Disparity Audit depressingly confirms what many of us know - namely that racial disadvantage and discrimination is widespread within our school system.
The problem remains of concern 30 years after the seminal report on racial inequality in schools – Education for All – was penned by Lord Swann.
There has in recent years been more focus on pupil performance by background and that is indeed welcome. The report builds on research which had already shown that white British children were falling behind children from other backgrounds.
Some may argue that if BME children are outperforming white British children then this may suggest there is no problem with racism holding those with BME backgrounds back from attending university.
But we would say this would be wrong.
We also know that children from BME backgrounds are at least three times more likely to be excluded from school and while today’s findings cannot be ignored, it appears the reality still for many BME pupils is they lag behind their white peers.
And what about BME teachers? We know like all teachers they have the burning passion and commitment to bring out the very best in the children and young people they teach.
But there is a widespread inequality of treatment.
Research by the NASUWT among its members has found that;

  • 77% of BME teachers do not believe that they are paid at a level commensurate with their skills and experiences, compared to 66% of all teachers;
  • 58% of BME teachers have experienced verbal abuse by pupils compared to 49% of all teachers.
  • 52% of BME teachers do not feel that their work is valued by the school management compared to 39% of all teachers.
  • 64% of BME teachers felt their opinions are not valued by school management compared to 53% of all teachers.

And, we know that the inequality of treatment inside schools is impacting on the wellbeing of BME teachers outside of school with 53% of BME teachers saying the job has affected their physical health in the last 12 months.
These experiences of inequality were underlined in separate research by our union and the Runnymede Trust which highlighted that BME teachers continue to experience discrimination and harassment as well as greater barriers to pay progression and career progression.
For the education system to be truly equitable, discrimination has to be challenged and rooted out wherever it’s found – throughout the institutions and those that play a part in education our children as well as with regard to the children themselves.
We are dismayed that teachers from BME backgrounds experience everyday racism, discrimination, harassment, lack of pay progression and being held back from promotion to senior management posts and headship. We believe these issues remain deep-rooted, endemic and institutionalised.

What happens in schools is often reflected in the fabric of wider society and BME communities too often say they feel marginalised, excluded and discriminated against. 

Government reforms since 2010, which have meant greater freedoms and flexibilities for schools in terms of how they employ and reward staff, and in terms of key decisions about the curriculum they offer to pupils, has exacerbated racial inequality. These reforms have also undermined the ability of the system as a whole to take strategic action to secure progress.

The Government has to take its share of responsibility by ensuring that all schools meet minimum standards for ensuring racial equality. Regrettably, there has been a culture of defensiveness and denial when the Government has been challenged about its record on racial equality in the education sector. That has to stop. 

Ministers must ensure that they use all available levers at their disposal to ensure that all schools meet basic racial equality requirements for pupils and for the workforce.  

That is why the NASUWT – The Teachers Union, is leading a pro-active campaign, Act for Racial Justice. Working with all stakeholders, we are determined to challenge racism wherever it exists.


The UN Refugee Agency has created a platform pulling together teaching resources in different european languages in order to support teachers and education personnel that are keen to address refugee-related topics with their students.

The portal collects good practices, games, lesson plans, movies, book suggestions, etc.:

  • Passages - An awareness game putting players through the experience of refugees.
  • Balloon Game - A short and fun game to raise awareness of the problems refugees must juggle with in a new land.
  • Against All Odds - An on-line game putting the player through the experience of fleeing a country and making a dangerous journey to safety.
  • Seeking Safety package - A complete lesson plan by Amnesty International with eight activities explaining basic concepts like refugee, IDP, asylum seeker.
  • Seeking Refuge is a BBC series of short animated films of children telling the story of how they fled their countries and came to the UK.
  • My Dreams for the Future is a downloadable book based around the drawings and stories of Congolese refugee children in Burundi by UNHCR.
  • Life on Hold is an interactive web documentary on refugees in Lebanon by news network Al Jazeera.

To discover more examples of lesson plans, learning activities and awareness-raising Tools, you can visit http://www.unhcr.org/teaching-resources.html 

Credits: Province of British Columbia (via flickr)

The Canadian Teachers’ Federation (CTF) and the Association canadienne d’éducation de langue française (ACELF) launched the second edition of “Voir grand ensemble” at the ACELF Conference in Calgary, Alberta, September 28-30, 2017.

“This booklet is intended for the entire school community within the context of its cultural diversity, especially teens, parents of immigrant families and teachers in French-language schools”, says CTF President H. Mark Ramsankar.

“Francophone communities in provinces and territories where French is the language of the minority are increasingly hopeful that immigration will counter population decline. These newcomer families are now part of the Canadian Francophonie and we want to do everything we can to help them feel they belong,” adds the President.

The guide proposes 14 different stories and testimonies aiming to provoke discussions on cultural identities and diversity in the frame of awareness raising activities with students, teacher training programmes or even, school-based integration initiatives with newly arrived families.

Printed copies of the guide can be ordered through the CTF Publications Catalogue.

An toolkit accompanying the publication can be downloaded here.