Educational Provision for Refugee Children and Families Across Europe: Fostering Dialogue Across Education, Health, and Protection Services

Nanna Jordt Jørgensen, Susanne Bregnbæk, Fabio Dovigo , Hermína Gunnþórsdóttir, Gry Paulgaard

Research output: Contribution to conference without a publisher/journalAbstractResearchpeer-review


Education is seen as a protective factor for refugee children (Gunton, 2007; Block et al., 2014). Evidences from countries with an extensive experience on refugee education show that the ability of schools to provide immediate and appropriate support is pivotal in order to favour a smooth accommodation process and ensure settlement, safety, and security for children (Bash, 2006; Porche et al. 2011). Conversely, inadequate school support often translates into students’ absenteeism, disengagement, feelings of disempowerment, poor relationships with peers, and early school leaving. This, in turn, can affect not only school achievements of refugee children, but also their coping strategies and resilience, undermining future prospects in terms of employment and socio-economic status, and heightening social exclusion (Hamilton, Moore, 2004; Taylor, Sidhu, 2012).

European Union delay in envisioning and implementing cut-clear policies about this issue reflects the prolonged invisibility of asylum-seeker and refugee children within the official educational paths. This void has, to a certain extent, been filled by medical and social services, NGOs, and voluntary associations. However, when responding to the needs of refugee children, such organisations risk to frame them as a homogenous group, even though we know that being a refugee is more a ‘bureaucratic entity’ than an experiential one (Rutter, 2006). Schools can contribute to reduce that risk by helping refocus attention on refugee children as whole persons, as well as offering widespread and extensive educational support to them (Arnot, Pinson, 2005). Moreover, while medical and social services may be unfamiliar or be regarded with suspicion as often connected with legal requirements, schools are generally respected and appreciated by refugee families, which consider them as an opportunity for socio-economic mobility (Keddie, 2012; Pugh et al., 2012). On the one hand, schools in Europe are now working on developing deeper knowledge of the multiple complex needs of asylum-seeker and refugee pupils undergoing experiences related to high mobility, displacement, and replacement. On the other, they are actively engaged in complex inter-agency conversations and negotiations with public and private services to define aims, roles, and tasks related to the care of refugee children.

The symposium will delve into the multifaceted challenges European schools and services are facing nowadays by developing shared professional expertise in the attempt to cope with the recent wave of asylum-seeker and refugee children. Drawing on empirical material from an ethnographic fieldwork in four Denmark day-cares, the first paper will examine how children from refugee families are perceived through a ‘coercive concern’ lens depending on their legal status and their family situation. The second paper, from Iceland, aims to explore the experience of the schools in Akureyri where refugee students from Syria are accommodated. Different perspectives of the teachers and the school services in the municipality are analysed through semi-structured individual and group interviews. Combining a geographical approach with theories of social learning, the third paper will evaluate the impact the large flow of refugees has had on the cooperation between different government agencies such as health, education and children protection services in the northernmost region in Norway since 2015. Lastly, the fourth paper will analyse how case management of refugee children and families across two large educational and health services in northern Italy lead to develop “deep stories” that reflect conflicting professional values and practices, as well as the development of inter-agency collaboration.

By comparing different perspectives from four European countries, the roundtable aims to promote the growth of current research on the topic of improving collaboration across education, health, and protection services working with refugee children and their families.

Original languageEnglish
Publication date24 Aug 2017
Publication statusPublished - 24 Aug 2017
EventECER 2017: Reforming Education and the Imperative of Constant Change: Ambivalent roles of policy and educational research - Campus Carlsberg, København, Denmark
Duration: 22 Aug 201725 Aug 2017


ConferenceECER 2017
LocationCampus Carlsberg


  • education

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