Be a friend welcome to Liverpool

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					                      ‘Be a friend’: welcome to Liverpool

Primary schools in Liverpool welcome newly arrived refugee children. Many arrive
without skills in English and may also have little or no experience of formal schooling.
When children arrive in school they may also be disorientated and socially isolated.
To integrate and feel a sense of belonging to the school and local community,
children need support with making friends and developing positive relationships.

The ‘Be a friend’ project

The ‘Be a friend’ project built on existing good practice in many Liverpool schools,
such as initiatives developed by school and pupil councils that had established buddy
schemes, peer mentoring and peer advocacy programmes. It also complemented
work being undertaken by schools across the city to raise awareness about why
refugees were living in Liverpool and to create greater understanding and empathy.

‘Be a friend’ was developed initially in nine primary schools. The project trained and
supported pupils who volunteered to act as ‘class friends’ to newly arrived refugee
children. It involved the following:

   •   Preparing all pupils for the arrival of refugee children through awareness
       raising activities
   •   Organising training sessions for pupils who volunteered to be ‘class friends’.
       The training helped them understand some of the anxieties that refugee
       children may feel when they join a school, and ways that they could provide
       friendship and support. ‘Class friends’ were also given advice on how to refer
       to teachers and other practitioners, if new refugee children reported bullying or
       child protection concerns
   •   Providing all ‘class friends’ with a special badge.

The role of the ‘class friend’ was to:

   •   Greet newly arrived refugee children. The ‘class friend’ would introduce him or
       herself to the new child and learn the correct pronunciation of the child’s
       name. The new child was helped to learn and remember the name of the
       ‘class friend’
   •   Accompany the new child to their class and introduce him or her to children,
       teachers and other adults
   •   Help the new child to become familiar with daily routines, the school
       environment and locate key places, such as toilets
   •   Sit with the new child in the classroom, during assembly and at lunchtime
   •   Introduce the new child to friends and activities during playtimes.

Participating schools identified a member of staff to oversee the project and to
ensure that ‘class friends’ could access support and advice if required.
Benefits and positive outcomes

‘When someone comes to our school, we can make them feel welcome.’
Rochelle

‘When it comes to play time and they have no one to play with, you would go over
and ask them if they want to play with you.’
Philip

The ‘Be a friend’ project had a positive impact on the self-esteem and motivation of
newly arrived refugee children. Many children managed to achieve good school
attendance and made excellent progress in their work. With the security and support
of the ‘class friend’, children found it easier to develop other friendships. Having
friendships has also helped children to show resilience and cope better with their
difficult experiences.

The project improved the inclusion and integration of refugee families in the schools
and communities. Families felt more comfortable about approaching schools, which
have become valued points of contact and sources of advice and information.

The ‘class friends’ too developed valuable skills and responsibilities. Many children
also used their home languages and this expertise was recognised and affirmed by
their schools.

Pupils and staff in many schools, including those with fewer pupils from minority
ethnic groups, have developed a better understanding and awareness of the needs
of refugee children and families.

Further development

The ‘Be a friend’ project is being sustained in the primary schools where it was
piloted. Schools manage the project themselves, with support and guidance from the
Ethnic Minority and Traveller Achievement Service.

A group of ‘class friends’ from Smithdown Primary School also attended a
conference, The World in One School, organised by LASAR and the Dingle Granby
Toxteth EAZ. The children facilitated a workshop designed to support schools that
wished to develop similar strategies.

				
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