Identifying and Meeting the Social, Emotional and Behavioural Needs of Refugee Children in a Primary School.

  • Bethany Sharpe

Student thesis: Doctor of Educational and Child Psychology


Refugee children are at risk of experiencing social, emotional or behavioural needs (SEBN) due to the stressful events they have experienced. These events may have occurred whilst in their country of origin, or when travelling to and seeking asylum in a new country.There are a high number of refugee children in the local authority where the current research takes place. Educational Psychologists (EPs) in the authority have become aware of some of the needs of these pupils through individual case work. However there is an acknowledgement that more detailed information about their needs is still required. There is also a role for EPs in working with school staff to support refugee and asylum seeker children. The current research was carried out by a Trainee Educational Psychologist (TEP) in a primary school with a high number of refugee children (10%). An action research design was employed, using the RADIO model to structure collaborative working with school staff. The focus of the action research was to identify the SEBN of refugee children in the school and to develop school practice. A whole staff questionnaire was completed for each class (15 classes in total) to explore the needs of all refugee children and identify the provision they had received. The 'Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire' (SDQ) (Goodman, 1997) was incorporated into this questionnaire to obtain scores for all 46 refugee children in the school. Descriptive statistics were used to analyse the data. In order to further explore this data, three focus groups were run, one with members of staff and two with groups of children in Key Stage 2. The focus group data was analysed using thematic analysis. The SDQ data revealed that just less than 50% of the refugee children scored in the abnormal range for total difficulties. The themes emerging from the thematic analysis highlighted a range of 'pupils' emotions and behaviours' and 'reasons for different emotions and behaviours'. Provision in school was discussed in relation to 'newly arrived pupils', 'social, emotional and behavioural support in school' and 'links with parents'. Somali refugee pupils were also highlighted as a group who had particular SEBN.An action planning group undertook further development work in response to the issues highlighted during the data collection phase. The group devised an action plan to focus on areas of the school's provision to improve upon. The TEP supported the action planning group to focus on further developing the induction procedure in school. The implications of this research are discussed at the individual child level, the whole school level and for the role of the EP. The TEP also reflects on the role of the EP in identifying the SEB needs of refugee children and in supporting a school to carry out action research.
Date of Award31 Dec 2010
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Manchester
SupervisorKevin Woods (Supervisor)


  • refugee children
  • social, emotional and behavioural needs
  • action research
  • acculturation
  • resilience
  • migration
  • somali

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