Refugee Week is a chance to reinforce values of kindness and respect

Thanks to a Waterstones email, I learned today that we are currently in the middle of Refugee Week — “a nationwide programme of events and activities that recognise the contribution of refugees to British society and the continuing importance of offering sanctuary to those in need” — held every year around World Refugee Day on 20 June. Terms like ‘refugee’, ‘asylum seeker’ and ‘illegal immigrant’ — often deployed as weapons in the so-called culture war, their meanings twisted and mangled — are much used and abused in our current polarised political climate. If we are genuinely serious about building stronger, more cohesive communities — or, to borrow ex-prime minister John Major’s phrase, ‘a nation at ease with itself’ — schools have a huge role to play by ensuring that children are able to discuss issues like racism, antisemitism, sexism and other forms of bigotry in a safe and inclusive environment, and as part of a values education programme that helps them learn about fairness, tolerance, empathy, kindness and respect.

This year’s Refugee Week theme — ‘We Cannot Walk Alone’ — takes its inspiration from Martin Luther King’s famous I Have a Dream speech and highlights “the importance of coming together in active and engaged anti-racism, learning about the experiences of others and building a sense of community and support.”

One of the goals of the Refugee Week organisation, according to its website, is to reclaim the word ‘refugee’:

We use the word ‘refugee’ because of its legal and historical significance, and because we believe it is important to reclaim it from negative uses.

from the Refugee Week statement of shared values and principles on its website

The website also includes a 24-slide activity pack for children and young people, of use in school or at home. It includes book and film suggestions, ideas for ‘simple acts’ as a way of getting involved and links to learning resources. There is also a link to a video of a teachers’ meet-up where educators share ideas about staging events in school.

Stories such as ones about asylum seekers crossing the English Channel or football fans booing their team for ‘taking the knee’ are, of course, always going to be headline news. Children are not somehow oblivious to or immune from the charged language and heightened emotions that usually surround such stories. As we mentioned in our blog Children are never too young to learn about respect, tolerance and diversity, exclusions for racism in primary schools are on the rise. And, tragically, racism is a lived experience for far too many children, as these powerful clips featured on the BBC’s Newsround pages show.

That’s why campaigns such as the Premier League’s No Room for Racism — not to mention the outstanding community, education and outreach work done by football clubs (and clubs involved in other sports) large and small up and down the country — are so important. The 2021 No Room for Racism action plan builds on existing work to promote equality, diversity and inclusion.

The Premier League Primary Stars website is packed with fantastic resources which can be used as full lessons or standalone activities, with everything completely free. For example, their No Room for Racism video pack “includes a selection of short interview clips with professional football players speaking about discrimination, with some sharing their personal experiences of racism as part of the No Room for Racism initiative. They celebrate diversity in football and wider society and talk about the importance of allyship and the way that teams support each other.”

You can hear details about all their resources and other support that is available by watching this video.

We will be adding links to the Refugee Week and Premier League resources to our Links page. There is a page for each of the nine life-based learning themes, with links (a) to sites with teaching ideas and resources for immediate use in the classroom and in curriculum planning (b) to a range of information-rich websites relevant to life-based learning.

We are always looking to expand the Links area of the website and welcome suggestions for additional links to high-quality websites. You can contact us here.

The image at the head of this article was taken from the Premier League’s website.

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