Experiences of school belonging for young children of refugee backgrounds
Riggs, Damien Wayne
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Previous research with adolescents with refugee backgrounds living in countries of resettlement has found that school belonging has an impact on a range of wellbeing and developmental outcomes, including mental health, peer relationships, self-esteem and self-efficacy, and academic achievement. However, very little research has explored school belonging in younger children with refugee backgrounds (i.e., under 13 years of age). In this article we report on a participatory research project concerning the experiences and understandings of school belonging with 15 children with refugee backgrounds (aged from 5 to 13 years old) who had been living in Australia for less than 12 months. The research aimed to explore experiences of school and school belonging from the perspective of children, and utilised photo elicitation techniques. The study found that refugee children were able to create a sense of school belonging through aspects of the school environment that reflected their identity and values, and through their relationships with their peers and teachers. In conclusion, we highlight the importance of ensuring that schools create spaces for refugee students to demonstrate their knowledge, values, and skills at school, and to ensure that strategies to promote school belonging in refugee students take into account their experiences and identity.