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NIESR: Schools help integrate EU migrant pupils and their families, in & out of the classroom

NIESR research published yesterday revealed the pivotal role schools can have in integrating migrant children and their families, creating an inclusive school environment and optimising the performance of pupils who might need additional support, especially with English. Through case studies of 15 schools across England the report, funded by the Paul Hamlyn Foundation, identifies good and promising practices towards successful integration across all areas of learning and school life. In particular it finds:

  • Schools note that migrant pupils usually progress very quickly, so that investment in the early months pays off. However, funding for English as an Additional Language (EAL) has been cut, so that many schools are not able to provide pupils with the support they need.
  • Immersion in the classroom is found to be best for pupils’ social integration as well as for progression, though additional support is essential for pupils with limited English.
  • Migrant pupils and their families make a positive contribution to the life of their schools. This includes the motivation and attitude of many migrant pupils and the enrichment through exposure of pupils and staff to different languages and cultures.
  • Schools in the research involve non-migrant pupils in a number of initiatives to support new arrivals. Non-migrant pupils act as buddies, mentors and language ambassadors, often receiving training for such roles.
  • Schools visited by the researchers engage migrant parents in a wide range of activities. They run language classes, provide information on matters such as health and how to assist with children’s learning at home. Schools also organise events where migrant and non-migrant families mix and step in to help migrant, and other, families in difficulty.

The report makes several recommendations, including:

  • Schools should be more adequately funded to support migrant pupils. In particular more  training should be provided on the needs of such pupils,
  • The informal role that schools play in assisting families should be recognised and appropriate support provided. 
  • Looking at the experiences of migrant pupils, the report finds that many valued retaining their mother tongue. This should be recognised as a skill and encouraged.

NIESR’s Associate Research Director Heather Rolfe, who co-authored the report with NIESR’s Chiara Manzoni, yesterday said:

"Anti-immigration sentiments played a decisive role in the decision of many to vote for the UK to leave the EU but many who are opposed to immigration have little contact with migrants. It is known that people who have more contact with migrants are more positive but opportunities for mixing can be limited. Yet as our report shows, schools are ideally placed to offer such opportunities, for pupils and for parents.

Notes for editors:

The report, entitled ‘How Schools are Integrating New Migrant Pupils and their Families’ is available here.

For more information or to speak to the authors, please contact the Paola Buonadonna in the NIESR Press Office via email on or by telephone on 0207 6541923.

NIESR aims to promote, through quantitative and qualitative research, a deeper understanding of the interaction of economic and social forces that affect people's lives, and the ways in which policies can improve them.

Further details of NIESR’s activities can be seen on or by contacting Switchboard Telephone Number: +44 (0) 207 222 7665


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