Jewish Community Refugee Taskforce

The UK will soon begin to see the arrival of refugees from the Ukraine and schools may want to think about the actions they can take to support them. PaJeS is on the Jewish Community Refugee Task Force to ensure that we can keep schools updated as to community efforts and ensure the community includes schools in their package of support for Ukrainian refugees.

At present it is difficult to tell if this will be 1, 10, 200 or 1000 children and if they will be Jewish or non-Jewish. Regardless, there will be various areas we must look at to ensure that we can provide the help that is needed. Most help will come through local authorities, but it is likely that schools will become portals for local authorities to triage key support services for newly arrived refugees – such as safeguarding, medical needs, and job resource connections.

Schools need to have the bandwidth to support the education of the extra students. We may wish to consider if NQTS and retired teachers may be called in to support, and, depending on whether the influx is all/partially or not at all of Jewish faith, considerations will be needed around Jewish Studies and additional support from local Rabbonim and Hebrew teachers. With language bound to be an issue, schools can work with Ukrainian schools here to see what help they can bring. National Oak Academy already has Ukrainian live lessons. Decisions will need to be made how to assimilate the refugees into existing classes so they can mix in as fast as possible with existing students so that they immediately begin to both play and learn together to benefit both their learning of English and sense of shared values. To enable this integration, physical capacity in schools may also need to be addressed. If there is no existing classroom space, then Portacabins, additional toilets and quiet space may need to be hired. Playground capacity may need to be looked at with a view to staggering play times. There will also be a need for additional heating/chairs/tables/learning resources etc.

As well as educational needs, mental health and wellbeing support will be vital, particularly for those who are traumatised and vulnerable and there will also be special needs to consider regarding both physical and emotional behavioural issues.

There must also be strong communication between all parties. Discussions with GB & Foundation Body must be sensitive, practical, open minded and realistic. Communicating the changes to the Wider School community are imperative – these are unsettling times for many (parents/carers and children) but we should also be mindful that there are other wars/conflicts whose attentions occupy many and we must remain sensitive to those existing refugees too. We must also have good communications with the wider Jewish community in each City/region. There needs to be a huge amount of goodwill to house refugees and accommodate children so that they can attend a Jewish school.

Ways in which the community can help can be found here.