The EAL learner

learners of English as an Additional Language

Students with refugee experience

 Refugee Experience

Students with refugee  experience have come from many parts of the world. They may have been born in their family’s country of origin or elsewhere and may have experienced trauma and spent time in refugee camps.

They may speak more than one language and may identify with a particular cultural group that is not necessarily a nationality. They may be of faiths other than Catholic and Christian. Often these students will have minimal English language proficiency and will have difficulty accessing an age appropriate curriculum due to limited or disrupted schooling. However, they may well have advanced literacy skills in their first language and their funds of knowledge gained from experiences other than schooling may be significant.

The families of these students will have a similar profile to their children and may need particular consideration to ensure that they are able to engage meaningfully with the school and school community.

Support for Students with Refugee Experience

“A learning environment which supports the wellbeing of students (with) refugee experience will affirm diversity, encourage an inclusive cultural environment and promote harmony.”    

(Count Me In, The State of South Australia, Department of Education and Children’s Services, 2007)

Catholic Education SA provides support for students and families with refugee experience in the following ways:

Cabrini Collective Research Project

In 2018 CESA implemented The Cabrini Collective research project to develop effective practices for engaging with students and families from culturally and linguistically diverse communities.  The project focused on the schools’ African Australian community many of whom have refugee experience.   For further information about the Cabrini Collective, see the summary of work and the full Research Project report.   Also, research findings were collated into a series of  video resources to support how we understand and develop engagement strategies for CALD students and their families within our schools.

Students with refugee backgrounds and the SACE

In response to the identification of challenges for students from refugee backgrounds in completing the SACE a research project between CESA and UniSA was conducted 2015-2017 .  The project report Improving Educational Outcomes for Students from Refugee Backgrounds in the SACE  details a framework that was developed from the findings of research into the programs that were introduced, as well as broader approaches to refugee student support in the case study schools.

Schools can maximise successful outcomes for students undertaking the SACE by utilising program, subject and assessment flexibilities in the SACE.


How schools foster refugee resilience is a cross sector research project led by UniSA that aims to investigate how schools transcend refugee students’ past life experiences by creating the social and educational conditions that enhance their resilience.    The group has also published 6 Key Issues Papers about:

A number of resources are available to teachers leading learning for students with refugee experience, such as  School’s in for Refugees and  Making Space for Learning: trauma informed practice in schools.

Planning the learning environment for refugee background students is a PETAA resource that provides background information and advice for creating a positive learning environment for learning English.

RoadstoRefuge  is designed to give students, teachers and the community access to relevant, factual and current information about refugees and teaching resources.

Classrooms of possibility: supporting at-risk EAL students (Hammond, 2015) focuses on understanding the refugee experience and pedagogy that will support students with refugee experience and minimal or disrupted schooling to engage more fully in mainstream classrooms.

SACCS Funding

Schools enrolling students with refugee experience can apply for SACCS funding  to assist with their inclusion and learning.

Grants are based on the assessed needs of students indicated in data collected twice each year, where students eligible for support:

  1. have entered Australia with a visa category designated Refugee or Humanitarian entrant
  2. have an English Language and Literacy Level that falls within the “high need” range. This assessment needs to have been conducted within six months prior to application for funding

Support Agencies

Where schools or families require support for matters other than learning the page on Support Agencies provides details for a range of agencies specialising in support for recently arrived families.

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  1. Click on ‘Count Me In’ and you will find this is actually linked to the PDF of the publication.

  2. magdalenamoise

    July 31, 2016 at 10:48 pm

    Is there an updated gvnt website with the approved refugee visas which could be hyperlinked here?

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