Vienna Migration Conference from a School Governor's perspective

The Get Up and Goals project is part of an ambitious pan European programme working with teachers to inspire a generation of global citizens with shared values on human rights and environmental protection.

I have been part of the journey towards this vision in many different ways: as a teacher; working for an LEA; an NGO education lead and most recently as a school governor. It was therefore a great pleasure to be invited to a conference this May with 12 European partners to focus on the issue of migration.

When it comes to migration, context is everything. A good starting point is to understand the one you are working in. What word immediately springs to mind when someone says ‘migration’? Deportation centres? Boats? Opportunity or brain-drain? Just some of the words generated spontaneously at the start of one working group with colleagues from Poland, Czech, Portugal and Italy – each working in a different context. An engaging civil servant from the Ministry of Justice and Security in the Netherlands led the workshop based on the guest lectures she gives to young people around the country. She also persuaded fellow colleagues to join her on her tour in an attempt to engage young people in one of the key moral issues of the day. Their aim is to build an understanding of the historical context of migration and the many reasons from it. The movement of human beings from one locality to another has happened for all of time since people first left Africa, often over large distances or in large groups. Humans are known to have migrated extensively throughout prehistory and human history as we know it today.

One of the most animated discussions to ensue in our workshop was based on a real Dutch asylum case study of an Armenia women and her two young children who had been brought up in Holland but whose asylum case was not accepted. This eventually resulted in the deportation of the mother and the children going into hiding. The case, famous in Holland, was also reported by the BBC It had gone on for many years and the facilitator skilfully told the story in stages, inviting the participants to say what they would do in the circumstances. She then played devil’s advocate to get the participants to explore and challenge each other’s decisions. It generated discussion about whether teachers would use a similar approach in their own lessons and how to make the best use of outside speakers, locally or nationally.

The content from this workshop lent itself very well to some of the skills-based techniques demonstrated by a facilitator from Czech in another workshop who also explored the many reasons why people leave their home for a different country. As well as a few warm up quizzes that challenged some of the myths about where most of the migration in the world is happening, the techniques also use participatory techniques such as drawing trees to investigate the drivers of migration (the roots), the impact of migration (the branches) and some of the solutions (fruits of the trees). A diamond ranking exercise generated a further discussion about where to prioritise resources. For me it was slight deja vu as I came across many of these techniques many years ago when I transitioned from the formal education sector to the NGO world and was involved in a project called Get Global! The full toolkit is still available on the Oxfam Website

Personally, my big ‘take home’ from the conference was a spur to promote this work amongst the governor community. Time and time again, evaluations of projects like Get Up and Goals! demonstrate that support by the leadership of schools is a key indicator of success. That support should include the governors of the school. At a time when OFSTED has said it will now prioritise efforts to create a ‘broad, rich curriculum’ over grades; when children themselves are demanding a voice in their future through climate strikes and other activities and when political intolerance is on the rise, there is some urgency in developing this part of the curriculum as a core part of strategy.

Janet Convery, School Governor 

Last modified on Friday, 19 July 2019 12:45