Three Northern Ireland teachers will share their knowledge on integrating refugee children into schools tomorrow (Wednesday, October 4).
Teachers, Nigel Arnold (Glengormley IPS), Ian Gilchrist (Millburn Primary School) and Kierna Corr (Windmill IPS) have recently returned from a British Council International Study Visit to Berlin, where they were learning about the integration of refugee schoolchildren and how Berlin’s education system supports newcomers through the use of ‘Welcome Classes’.
They will share their new knowledge at a British Council Professional Development Workshop, taking place at Riddel Hall in Belfast.
During their time in Berlin, the trio made visits to the Education Senate, rehabilitation centres, four schools and the German Children & Youth Foundation (DKIS); aiming to discover new ways of integrating newcomer pupils here in Northern Ireland.
Speaking about the experience was Nigel Arnold, Principal of Glengormley Integrated Primary School.
He said: “Glengormley Integrated is an accredited international primary school – comprising of over 22 different nations. Out of 350 pupils, currently 56 speak English as an Additional Language (EAL) and I’m always keen to learn new ways and methods for making new pupils welcome.
“For me, our time in Berlin was a very moving experience as the schools there are dealing with a problem on a much larger scale compared to here in Northern Ireland, and the experience really made me think. We met pupils from Afghanistan and Syria, who have had to grow up so quickly and are really quite inspirational.
“You can see that the teachers are doing the best they can for the kids and I felt a real affinity with them.
“Even though I understand the need for Berlin’s Welcome classes – classes specifically for newcomer children to learn the German language and culture – I felt that what we do here is better – where newcomer children are immersed into classes and feel included and less detached from their classmates.
“What I did take from Berlin though, is that they have a more joint-up approach between education and other public services including social services and NGOs - with social workers dedicated to schools. There’s more of a shared ownership and responsibility – and it’s not all left to the schools. Here school principals in particular are an easy port of call and it eats in to your day. With more support, we would love to reach out more to families, and as groups of communities grow, help these new arrivals.”
Speaking about the importance of International Study Visits, Jonathan Stewart, Deputy Director at British Council Northern Ireland said: “International Study Visits aim to inspire new approaches to teaching across the curriculum. It’s great for teachers from Northern Ireland to learn from colleagues and peers in another country and to develop new insights and understandings.
“Visits like this are extremely important for actively raising the awareness among teachers about the importance of sharing ideas and information on a global scale.”
This workshop is part of a series of professional development workshops hosted by the British Council. This workshop will focus on three key themes; the Newcomers, how they are viewed and treated in Berlin and Northern Ireland; the Families, how they are included in all aspects of planning for inclusion in Berlin and the Local Children - how they are prepared for newcomer children in their classes in Berlin and Northern Ireland.
Following this, the next workshop will focus on anti-bullying and developing effective strategies to ensure the well-being of students. This will take place on Wednesday, November 8 ahead of Anti-Bullying Week.
Teachers can still register for both workshops. To register, visit https://nireland.britishcouncil.org/education-resources/school-teacher/i...
For more information on International Study Visits or other Professional Development Workshops available through British Council Northern Ireland, visit http://visit nireland.britishcouncil.org or follow on Twitter: @BCouncil_NI.