Ideas and resources for schools who want to teach their students about refugees and forced migration

Refugees and forced migration: teaching resources for schools

Resources by key stage and topic

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Resources for teaching about refugees and asylum seekers

Teaching about refugees and forced migration in your school? Not sure where to start? We've gone through a wide range of resources available to teachers, and organised them by key stage and topic for you on this micro site for teachers.

Amnesty International (2006) Seeking Safety

A lesson plan for classes of pupils age 8-12, helping them understand the concept of refugees and seeking asylum and engaging with the human stories behind the facts. It includes a section of stories from famous people who were refugees. Please note, this resource was produced for Scottish classrooms, so references Scotland’s policies and population in particular, which may not be fully transferable to English context. Also note the date of statistics!


Amnesty International (2014) They came because they had to

A short lesson plan to encourage children to learn about and understand the situation of refugees and the right to seek asylum, through a quiz, story and role play. Welsh language version, English powerpoint available.


Amnesty International (2017) Human Rights Through Poetry 

Poets who write about human rights can generate empathy by connecting the reader/listener to the experiences in the poem. On the webpage are 12 resource sheets from a selection of poems to analyse. 


Amnesty International (2018) Seeking safety activity pack

This pack focuses on asylum, approaching the issue from global and UK perspectives. It encourages students to draw parallels with their own lives, and works on building empathy skills to develop an understanding those seeking asylum. Pupils are encouraged to expand their understanding beyond themselves: to think globally and to think about human rights. The pack is designed to approach the issue of asylum in a way that is accessible, and appropriate to primary school children. The materials and activities can be used in stand-alone lessons or in projects to encourage students to make connections between different areas of learning.


BBC learning zone Seeking Refuge animated film series

Five short animated films, suitable for younger children (age 9-12), in which refugee children recall how they fled their country, how they arrived in the UK and how they started a new life here. Each film is narrated by the child themselves with a cartoon animation. 


British Council (2018) Be a positive messenger

A homework challenge to help pupils find out more about the lives of migrants and refugees, show support, and celebrate the contributions they make to societies around the world. It includes 20 questions for students to research at home and fill in. Good homework exercise.


City of Sanctuary: Definitions Matching Exercise 

The activity guide has a definitions game which seeks to improve learners’ knowledge of some of the terms and definitions associated with the asylum and immigration process in a structured way. It is a good basic training tool. Can be used for adults or young people, divide learners into groups and feedback as a class.


City of Sanctuary: Schools Resource Pack (2021)

Recently updated resource pack on how to support young refugees in schools and how to make the school environment welcoming and inclusive. 


Doc Academy/Comic Relief (2018) Forced Migration Toolkit

Full of interactive exercises from 15 minutes to 1 hour, this toolkit uses clips from the BBC’s BAFTA award-winning documentary Exodus: Our Journey to Europe, as well as Red Nose Day clips to develop students’ media literacy skills, critical thinking and empathy on the topic of forced migration. Made for the classroom, form and tutor groups, after-school groups and as part of assemblies and year-group projects. For KS3 and KS4. 


Doc Academy/Comic Relief (2018) Exodus: English lessons

These lessons are specially made by teachers for teachers and meet the national curriculum objectives for KS3-4 (GCSE) English language lessons. 


EU/UNICEF (2016) Emergency lessons

A school pack with class activities and video exercises to teach children about the education of children in emergency zones; asking them to reflect on the value of education; and their education vs. education in crisis situations. Includes facts about education in emergencies and video exercises along with stories from children in emergency areas. Includes separate lesson plans for students age 6-12 and 12-18.


IntoFilm (2018) Refugee Week Shorts

This resource contains guides (teachers notes and Powerpoint presentation) to two short documentary films, Hamsa and Boya Boya (Shine Shine) which have been especially selected to be accessible to learners within the 11 to 19 age range. The guides includes discussion questions and activity ideas to encourage learners to ask and answer questions and reflect on why people seek sanctuary in other countries. 


IntoFilm (2016) Refugee Week 

This resource contains a guide to 5 films which have been selected to be accessible to learners within the 5-19 age range. Guides include discussion questions and activity ideas to engage learners to ask and answer questions and reflect on why people seek sanctuary in other countries. The films are: An American Tail, Casablanca, Monsieur Lazhar, The Kite Runner, The Terminal. You can order the films for free through your Into Film account. 


My Bright Kite - Lessons of Hope

A classroom resource made by young refugees at Lawnswood High School, Leeds and launched by My Bright Kite (a refugee youth organisation based in Yorkshire). It aims to promote a deeper understanding of the experiences of young refugees and the small acts of kindness students can take to promote an ethos of welcome. Ages 11+.


  • A filmed interview with Gulwali Passarlay – Author of ‘The Lightless Sky’ ( a book about refugees that is accessible to the age group)

  • Lesson plan and teachers guidance

  • Accompanying educational resources for your lessons

  • Student pledge cards

National Children’s Bureau 'Asylum Seeking and Refugee Children and Young People: Developing Good Practice Training Pack’ (2006)

 Funded by the Department for Education and Skills (DfES), this resource encourages children to consider the difference in experience of going away. Suggests different senarios and scene playing and faciliates discussion of the issues. 

NEU/NUT (2018) Refugee Voices

Series of film clips in which young refugees discuss what it felt like to come to school in the UK. The NEU recommends teachers watch these for teacher training and has a staff inset day training plan which accompanies the videos. 


NEU (2018) Quiz 

8 question quiz provided by Simple Acts and Refugee Week.


NEU (2018) 20 Simple Acts

A list of 20 easy ideas for teachers to implement in schools to help welcome refugees and/or teach students about refugee issues: eg. sing a song, ask pupils to bring in recipes or books from other cultures, research famous people who are refugees etc.


Our Migration Story 

The lesson plans, schemes of work and resources here have been designed to supplement the case studies and histories presented on this site of migration and refugees in Britain today. Filtered by KS4 and KS3. 



Oxfam Schools of Sanctuary: giving a warm welcome

Created in partnership with Schools of Sanctuary, this resource enables learners to think about why refugees leave their homes, what challenges they face, how welcoming the UK is to those seeking asylum and our fundamental human rights. Students can then turn their attention to their own school and the welcome it provides. The aim of the resource is to encourage young people to initiate their school becoming a School of Sanctuary. The structure and content is suitable for all schools, no matter how diverse or homogenous; because when students feel safe and welcome, they can all thrive and reach their potential.


Red Cross (2017) Refugee Week 2017: Our shared future

Red Cross produces a lesson plan each year for Refugee Week. This plan includes 5 30 minute activities for 11-16 year olds to discuss human values, mutual respect and understanding. They are designed to help learners see refugees as “someone like me”, at the same time as recognising and accepting our differences. The session looks at how refugees contribute to communities; empathy is built through engagement with a story, and pupils think about the individual and collective values that are needed to support integration of refugees in future. An action plan is made to help young people focus on the role they play in creating a shared future.

British Red Cross teaching resources

British Red Cross produces a lesson plan each year for Refugee Week. Click the link above to accesss their database of resources for schools, which is updated regularly. The resources offer primary and secondary teaching ideas about what causes people to leave their homes and what their experiences are like, the meaning of the terms asylum seekers, migrants and refugees, and what makes us who we are and how we can understand and celebrate our differences.


Red Cross (2018) Surviving to Thriving short films

Young refugees in the Red Cross’s ‘Surviving to Thriving’ project (which provides 11 to 25 year old refugees and asylum seekers with the life skills, advice, mental health support and leadership opportunities to rebuild their lives and thrive in the UK) made a series of short films about their lives, on various topics: loneliness, prejudice, education, the asylum process, family reunion, turning 18, expectations about life in the UK. These are used to train professionals but could also be used with secondary age pupils to explore the refugee experience. 


Red Cross (2018) Refugees through time

Very short activity (eg for PSHE or tutor time) for 11-16 year olds asking them to compare and contrast two images of refugees from 1930s and the modern day.


Red Cross (2018) Migrant Caravan in Mexico

Short class discussion activity based around a video following the story of a family trying to reach the US border.


Red Cross (2018) Migration to Britain: Crossing the channel

Lesson plan to build empathy for refugees in the wake of the news of more people crossing in small boats. Learners imagine they are about to make the journey and write a letter home. What might they want to say to their loved ones about their plans and hopes for the future?


Smart Law (2019) Free Migration Resource

This classroom resource has been created by Young Citizens in partnership with Allen & Overy. In this one-hour lesson students explore the various reasons why people choose to migrate. They unpack the differences between refugees, asylum seekers and other migrants, examining key pieces of legislation to see what rights migrants have in both national and international law. Students are also asked to analyse a number of real life case studies.


STAR (2006) Balloon Game

A game for younger pupils (primary age) to help them understand the competing pressures faced by refugees in the UK. Balloons are labelled with challenges (food, accommodation, school) and pupils have to try to keep them all in the air.


The Traces Project

A website celebrating the contribution that refugees and asylum seekers have made to arts and culture in the UK with reference to an interactive timeline of famous people (Lucian Freud, Judith Kerr, M.I.A, Rita Ora). The website also has a learning activities section, with downloadable suggestions for teachers to encourage pupils to create music, art, dramatic or creative writing responses to some of the themes (refugees, journeys, families starting life in a new place). Activities for a range of ages. 


UNHCR (2019) Teachers Toolkit

A compendium of animations, fact sheets, videos, infographics for teachers to adapt about refugees - who they are, where they come from, what challenges they face. There are some resources on education specifically. Finally the toolkit also has a ‘professional guidance’ section for teachers on ‘including refugees in your classroom’. This features a module on understanding stress and trauma, and another on language acquisition.


UNHCR (2016) Playing Against All Odds (link to the game)

Against all Odds is an internet based game putting players through the experience of being a refugee. The game links through to pages with background information for teachers, explains the Geneva Convention and links background information on refugees from external sources. For children ages 7 and older. 


UNHCR (1995) Passages Game

A role playing game for a large group (15-70 people) which can be played in a playground or gymnasium to help them understand the experience of being a refugee. For teenagers or adults. The group is subdivided in “families”. Each of these families will play game modules putting them through all aspects of being a refugee (fleeing a country, crossing borders, claiming asylum).


UNICEF UK (2016) In search of safetyv

This resource aims to allow teachers to help their students – primary (age seven upwards) and secondary – make sense of the current refugee and migrant crisis in Europe, within a children’s rights framework. It provides an historical overview of migration, contextualising the challenges we face today with a reminder of what has gone before. Provides 20 activities which can be incorporated into subject teaching, or done in a standalone way in PSHE etc.  


UNICEF UK (2018) Forced to flee: children on the move

This is a sequel resource to ‘In search of safety’ - looking at forced displacement in a global context as opposed to ISOS which focused on Europe’s response to the refugee crisis. Pages 14-15 offer useful guidelines on how to teach these resources sensitively, including how to engage with any refugee and asylum seeking children in the class before the lesson to ensure they know what is happening. Focuses on varied reasons why people leave home - including natural disasters - not just war/violence and persecution. As with the ISOS resource, the activities are designed to be slotted into lessons in various school subjects (history, politics, English, Drama, ICT etc)


UpForIt Music (date?) The Dogtown Fire

A 45-60 minute musical for 8-13 year olds to put on at school, a parable about war and the plight of refugees.


War Child - Lesson 5: Emergency!

1 hour class lesson/activity. Computer required to show a YouTube video from War Child and a powerpoint presentation. This lesson will make your class think about what emergencies mean at different scales, and how conflict can change communities by focusing on the experience of refugees. Pack comes with guidelines for the lesson and a powerpoint to accompany the lesson.  


What we do all day (2017) 12 books about refugees

A blog post which suggests 12 books about refugees suitable for reading to 6 to 9 year olds.


Young Roots Refugee Week lesson and resources

A complete Key Stage 3 lesson plan exploring the facts about refugees and asylum seekers in the UK and celebrating their contributions. Click here to download the presentation and here for the accompanying case studies about the real lives of young people who are refugees. Resource created by Young Roots for Refugee Week 2015 – why not also show the four-minute film made by their young people about the positive difference refugees have made to their lives?

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