Knowledge sharing to support refugee family settlement, early learning & transition to school for children of refugee background.

Year: 2021

Author: Reid, Carol, Sanagavarapu, Prathyusha, Lobytsyna, Maria

Type of paper: Individual Paper

It is crucial to understand how the most vulnerable refugee children have been impacted by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. This paper reports on a project funded by the Ian Potter Foundation and Western Sydney University. It discusses innovative approaches to knowledge translation and knowledge sharing among those working with refugee children and their families in 20 metropolitan, regional and rural community hubs and early learning centres. Specifically, it focuses on early learning experiences, transition to school and family settlement of refugee children and their parents from 3 different states: New South Wales, Victoria, and Queensland during COVID-19 pandemic.Our interest relates to the challenges and opportunities afforded by online engagement and access to support and learning for refugee families. For this, we draw upon multiple sources: (1) theoretically, from a post-migration ecology model (Nilsson and Bunar, 2016) (2) methodologically, with concepts of early childhood intercultural processes and practices (3) empirically, from live teaching and learning experiences in virtual and face to face environments as well as practical organisational and pedagogical strategies during the COVID-19 crisis.Recent evidence has revealed that around 1 in 5 children in Australia were developmentally vulnerable in one or more domains (AEDC, 2018).  Children from refugee backgrounds are at increased risk and more vulnerable to economic and social hardships, which has been amplified during the pandemic. Online communication barriers, the loss of learning environments and social interaction that is essential for integration success has meant that community hubs and centres have had to reinvent some practices and processes. The data is collected through online semi-structured individual and group interviews with 60 educators from government and independent organisations across three states. Policy and organisational documents and reports are also examined to understand the context of community and early learning centres.This paper examines innovation during COVID including 1) the approach of hub and centre staff towards parent engagement in, and support of the early learning and transition to school of their children; 2) the need to build relationships and trust with parents using alternative processes and practices; and 3) the opportunities provided for sharing the wealth of knowledge and experience of hub and centre leaders.The paper will conclude with some thoughts on how the innovations in the project methodology created new knowledge and insights. It also suggests new research foci and methodologies emerging from strategies developed by hubs and centres during the pandemic.