Lockdowns and school closures in response to Covid-19 have impacted on all students in the UK, but have also acted as multipliers of educational inequalities. Among the most vulnerable are newly arrived migrant children, as they tend to be less familiar with the educational system and life in the country. Some migrant and refugee students also face challenges due to language barriers, limited resources and, in many cases, the traumatic personal experiences of migration.
Throughout the pandemic, the specific situation of migrant pupils has received little attention among researchers, policymakers, and the media. This research brief contributes to addressing the information gaps about:
- the impact of the UK pandemic on migrant students in primary and secondary schools;
- the responses and practices implemented by schools and other local actors;
- the potential ways forward at the level of policy and practice.
This document stems from an ongoing collaboration between NIESR (National Institute of Economic and Social Research) and the University of Nottingham (International Centre on Public and Social Policy - icPSP). It is informed by a review of available evidence and by the insight emerging from two parallel studies:
- A research project undertaken by NIESR, building on an earlier report on ‘How schools are integrating new migrant pupils and their families’ (2019). Following the start of the first UK lockdown, additional semi-structured interviews were undertaken with teachers and headteachers across England to explore new challenges and responses. The project was led by Dr Chiara Manzoni and funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC).
- An ongoing project conducted at the University on Nottingham on ‘Migrant Pupils in UK schools: the impact of Covid’, which in its first stages has focused on interviews with third sector and public sector organisations to examine the impact of the pandemic on schools, students and their families, as well as mapping local interventions. The project is led by Dr Alessio D’Angelo.
NIESR and the icPSP have also worked together to organise a series of knowledge-exchange events with teachers and practitioners, with the framework of the ‘Learning for Citizenship’ platform, including the international conference ‘Supporting migrant students through the pandemic’ (May 2021).