Interventions for refugee children in New Zealand schools: models, methods, and best practice

Publication Details

This review looks at different models, methods and best practice for intervening with refugee children in New Zealand schools. It examines the literature on refugee trauma, loss and grief and second language concerns, resilience, issues of migration, school and teacher effects, and conceptual and policy issues. It also discusses a range of best practices for refugee children within schools.

Author(s): Richard J. Hamilton, Angelika Anderson, Kaaren Frater-Mathieson, Shawn Loewen and Dennis W. Moore. Report prepared for the Ministry of Education.

Date Published: 2000

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Chapter 8: Potential Indicators for Documenting Change

Children, Families, Communities, Teachers, Schools, and Service Agencies

As indicated in Chapter 1, our model allows us to conceptualise the process of adaptation (the task faced by refugees) with a view to the description of the array of individual and environmental factors that hinder or facilitate this process. To that end it helps us consider factors refugees bring with them to the task. It allows us to examine factors that operate currently both in terms of situations and variables that simply exist (factors that are) and those deliberately put in place (what is done, and what can be done), to consider actual and best practice. Lastly it leads to the consideration of outcomes. Chapters have identified a variety of specific factors that fit within the different phases of our model. These factors can be used to gauge and describe the nature of change in refugee children as they participate in the adaptation process as well as the nature of change which occurs in those systems which participate in this mutual adaptation (parents, community, teachers, schools, etc). Some of these changes are planned and intended, while others are not.

Critical Issues Related to Refugee Education

What They Bring (Premigration factors)
Risk and Protective     Language (L1 and L2), health, displacement and
Factors                          Loss, grief and trauma national level.

The Task:                       To adapt to a new environment

  • extent of trauma                              - Literacy L1 and L2 Proficiency
  • degree of family cohesion             - mental health status
  • nature of separation                       - coping styles
  • prior or lack of education               - resilience.
Factors That Are (Postmigration and moderating factors)

Ongoing Risk / Resilience Factors         In the individual
Including Barriers / Facilitators              The family
To Adaptation at School                          The community / school (incl. policies and services)


  • extent of loss and bereavement
  • extent of trauma
  • degree of family and community cohesion
  • parental depression
  • social and community networks
  • immigration status and family unification
  • socio-demographic variables (resident employment status, ages, religion etc)
  • L2 proficiency
  • availability of community services
  • governmental policies and intiatives
  • school structure and policies
  • teacher experience and attitudes
  • NZ student attitudes
What Is Done
What Can be done

Here the focus is on planned interventions in schools. "Best Practice" may include planned interventions in other settings and or the availability of systems and policies on a national level.

School based interventions:          Directed at:
Referrals / treatment                        Individual, families
promoting resilience                         Whole schools, community


  • teacher and principal receptivity to and support for interventions
  • increased teachers skills and awareness
  • targeted induction process 
  • increased communication between shcools and families
  • positive and supportive school environment
  • L1 and L2 support
  • co-ordinated support plans which integrate child, family, school and community
  • co-ordinated interagency support
What Happens

Outcomes:                                As Evidence By:
Individual Adaptation:             Child Behaviour, Learning, Peer Relations and Health
Whole school Adaptation:       School Policies and Procedures Teacher Development


  • increased levels of self esteem
  • appropriate academic progress
  • increased L2 proficiency
  • children's and parental psychological adjustment
  • parental support and involvement in child's education
  • increased communication between family and schools
  • positive chances in teacher attitudes, knowledge and skill.
  • effective systems for recognising, monitoring and referring students experiencing difficulties.

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