Setting the record straight

20th May 2005 at 01:00
WHY REFUGEES? Video and workbook. Team Video, pound;38.

REFUGEES: WE LEFT BECAUSE WE HAD TO. The Refugee Council, pound;19.95.

Did you know that people fleeing civil war cannot be categorised as refugees? Such people would be included in the figures for people denied asylum, but remaining in Britain. Were you also aware that the largest group of people settling in Britain are from the European Union, followed by Australasia? These two invaluable new resources for secondary schools aim to address misconceptions about refugees and confront prejudices by promoting understanding of why refugees are forced to flee and the difficulties they face when arriving in Britain.

Both publications provide a wealth of information. For example, they examine the historical contributions of refugees and demonstrate the disproportionate burden carried by poor countries in Africa and Asia, closest to wars or repressive regimes. Particularly helpful is the explanations of the precise distinctions between asylum-seekers (applicants for refugee status), refugees (who have "a well-founded fear of being persecuted") and economic migrants (seeking an improved standard of living). Both directly address the challenging questions of whether the issue of "asylum" reflects legitimate concerns or whether it is being used as a proxy for race and promoting bigotry and social division.

Refugees: We Left Because We Had To is a hefty 340-page A4-sized book, but it is straightforward to use. The introduction outlines how each chapter relates to the citizenship programme of study. The easily reproduced pages include personal testimonies, activity pages with suggested lesson plans, and discussion points. Swift cross-referencing between the introduction and the relevant chapter can produce the materials for a challenging, thought-provoking lesson.

Why Refugees? is a video - which comes with an A4-sized workbook - divided into 11 units. It features sixth-form students investigating why there are refugees, why they came to the UK, and what happens to them when they arrive. The workbook contains a range of activities for each unit and a helpful time-display on the video makes it easy to fast-forward to the unit being studied.

Every school should buy these resources. They are designed to make lesson planning quick and easy, but teachers should be aware they deal with acutely controversial and sensitive issues which warrant careful thought and preparation. Teachers are recommended to take time to read the introductions of both products which have guidance on tackling tough topics.

William Storey

William Storey is head of sixth-form at Haydon School, Pinner, Middlesex, and principal examiner for US Government and Politics GCE (Edexcel)

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