Children from Refugee or Migrant Backgrounds

    • Overview


    Donna Gaywood, Birmingham City University & Centre for Research in Early Childhood, UK
    Jennifer Koutoulas, Early Years Intercultural Association Ltd, Australia


    • Develop a partnership that will allow applications for various types of funding (Horizon, EEA, NordFORSK, Erasmus +) to pursue collaborative research projects to build on existing studies and further develop an emerging body of knowledge around the experiences of refugee, asylum seeking children and their families who have experienced Forced Migration from an international Early Education perspective.
    • Respond to EU and World expectation making ECEC institutions which enhance a sense of belonging specifically for children from refugee, asylum-seeking and migrant backgrounds to transform ECEC settings into quality agencies, which are culturally appropriate, safe, welcoming and inclusive societies to achieve better outcomes for refugees and migrant children and their families.
    • Expand further understandings for the Early Childhood and Education Care workforce, enhance culturally relevant pedagogy and empower ECEC as a sustainable solution for increasing migration challenges.


    With escalating worldwide militarisation and conflict, children now constitute half the world’s 70.8 million displaced people (UNHCR 2019). The issues confronting very young displaced children are vast and wide ranging and include abuse, neglect, violence, exploitation, trafficking, sexual assault and trauma. Increasingly, children and their families are having to navigate not only forced migration but the necessity to re-build their lives in new countries. Early Education offers a unique opportunity for children and their families to develop a sense of belonging but there is a paucity of research to support the sector to understand, enable and empower the children and their families.

    Ongoing climate change, events of extreme weather, global economic inequalities and increasing military conflicts result will result in a greater number of forced displacements, human mobility and migration waves. Responding to that requires political actions to make liveable in the countries of origin on one hand, and on the other enabling educational institutions in the countries of destination not only to receive, but also integrate the newcomers and their families.

    By integration, we mean a complex process facilitating participation, interactions and relationships between newcomers and “the locals”, resulting in a joint sense of belonging and community (experienced by children and families from both majority and minority backgrounds).

    The European Commission points that ECEC “from the earliest stages has an essential role to play in learning to live together in heterogeneous societies. These services can strengthen social cohesion and inclusion in several ways. They can serve as meeting places for families. They can contribute to developing language competences of the children, both in the language of the service and the first language. Through social-emotional learning, early childhood education and care experiences can enable children to learn how to be empathic as well as learn about their rights, equality, tolerance and diversity” (Council of the European Union, 2019, point (6)).

    Within this SIG we want to unpack the political goals of ECEC, relate it to research, scientific concepts and the everyday practice of ECEC dealing with increasing socio-cultural and economic diversity of children and families globally.  That will allow us to develop joint research proposals for calls announced by EU, EEA as well as research councils of our countries; all in order to run comparative and collaborative research developing knowledge that the ECEC theory, practice and policy needs to transform ECEC settings into significant agencies of inclusion in more and more heterogenic societies.

    The SIG will attempt to demonstrate the intersectional experiences of children and their families who are refugees or who are migrants, either forced or by choice. It will try to show the transferability of any research to other people groups who are facing significant challenge.

    Access and good quality of ECEC is in line with the Rights of the Child and is mentioned in the European Pillar of Social Rights and The UB Sustainable Development Agenda 2030. The same documents mention increasing migration and forced displacement as a global challenge of our times. This SIG will develop knowledge that will help to deal with this challenge in an intergenerational and sustainable way.

    The purpose of this SIG is to explore, examine and advance research, education and scholarship on children’s lived Refugee and Migration experiences. The formation of this SIG is premised on four influences – filling in a gap left by existing SIGs, currency of the theme and significance of impact on children and what it means to be a child in a global context, and implications for research and practice. Thus, we believe the formation of this SIG is timely and consistent with the overall values and goals of EECERA.


    Council of the European Union (2019). Council Recommendation of 22 May 2019 on High-Quality Early Childhood Education and Care Systems (2019/C 189/02). Retrieved from: Accessed: 24.08.2019

    Refugee Council of Australia. (2016b). Who are asylum seekers? Surrey Hills, Australia: RCOA. Retrieved from

    United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. (1951). Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees (The Refugee Convention). Geneva, Switzerland: UNHCR. Retrieved from


    Click here to read the 2020-21 report (pdf) Donna Gaywood & Jennifer Koutoulas

    News & Events

    EECERA Special Interest Group: Children from refugee or migrant backgrounds whilst they have been engaged in an international research project. A small group of international colleagues have partnered with Good Chance and were funded by the Froebel Trust to create the Inclusive Toolkit for Refugee and Migrant Children: A resource for Early Childhood and Care Settings. It aims to raise awareness and improve provision to support refugee and migrant children in early years settings. The toolkit offers activities and ideas for both host and refugee children to help them connect with kindness, consider their homes, the people who are special to them as well as introducing issues around migration. It has been trialled in Turkey, Greece, Australia, England, and Poland. The pedagogy on offer is sensitive, inclusive and trauma informed. More information can be found here:

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