'It’s really important for them to feel comfortable within the classroom': teachers' experiences of refugee children transitioning into school

Katey De Gioia

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    Australia has seen increased levels of migration and refugee families coming to Australia (Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2010) which therefore has resulted in increased numbers of children entering school throughout the year, often when families have been in Australia for a short amount of time. Whilst the literature highlights the importance of effective transition to school processes as having long term benefits for children and families commencing kindergarten at the beginning of a school year (Early, Pianta et al. 1999; Dockett and Perry 2003; Pianta and La Paro 2003), refugee families arrive in Australia and their children start school any time throughout the year. These newly arrived families may struggle with school policies and practices that are often radically different from those in their home country. Further, research has identified that recently arrived students from Africa placed in high schools had difficulties within these institutions (Cassity & Gow, 2005). This was compounded by teachers' lack of confidence in addressing their specific needs, which may likely be the case in primary school settings. Children joining existing classes and friendship groups may also experience isolation and difficulties with adjustment. This study used a phenomenological approach to understand the perspectives of newly arrived families, children and key staff in the school setting (teachers, executive and support staff). Stakeholders were involved in focus groups. Follow up interviews with children in the school setting enabled them to photograph parts of the environment and people that assisted with the settling process. Teachers were then invited through interview to comment on their perceptions of the photographs. Data was analysed with the assistance of NVIVO 9, (a qualitative software program) to generate key themes and processes which address issues for newly arrived families, children and their teachers in the classroom setting. This paper will report on one part of the study; specifically on the perceptions of teachers. Findings will identify supports and barriers for teachers to facilitate smooth transitions and highlight the importance of communication processes and relationships between families, children and teachers for effective supports during the transition process.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)1-13
    Number of pages13
    JournalAARE 2011 Conference Proceedings
    Publication statusPublished - 2011
    EventAustralian Association for Research in Education Conference - Hobart, Tasmania
    Duration: 27 Nov 20111 Dec 2011


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