Care for Children with Migrant or Refugee Backgrounds in the School Context
Riggs, Damien Wayne
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While teachers are increasingly being asked to provide ‘care’ for students in their classrooms, very little research has explored what care might look like for students with migrant or refugee backgrounds. This paper reports on the findings of a study conducted with children when they began school in Australia in the Intensive English Language Program (IELP), with a focus on how care might be provided and defined. Participants were 63 migrant or refugee children (15 refugee students and 48 migrant students; 35 males and 28 females) aged between five and 13 years of age (M = 7.40 years, SD = 2.39), and 14 IELP teachers (10 women and four men). The aims of the broader study of which this paper forms one part were to explore experiences at school through a mixed-methods, participatory methodology. The current paper takes a deductive approach, and focuses specifically on the relationships between students and teachers as one dimension of care for students. We found that students had positive relationships with their teachers, and reported feeling safe at school. Teachers reported some challenges in relation to their relationships with students, particularly in the case of students with refugee backgrounds. We suggest that the concept of care for children with refugee and migrant backgrounds needs further work, particularly in mainstream education settings.