Learning with S2 at Kirkintilloch High School

Kirkintilloch High School

Pauline Diamond Salim, media officer at Scottish Refugee Council visits Kirkintilloch High School to hear from S2 students about their work to welcome refugees.

The modern studies department of Kirkintilloch High School feels like a special place. Posters of inspiring and revolutionary men and women look down on the students from the classroom and corridor walls. I notice some of our favourite people, the Glasgow Girls, in a photo display of inspiring women. It feels like a good start to our visit.

My colleague Martha and I are here to talk to the S2 students about the ongoing crisis facing refugees around the world. Teachers from the history, geography and modern studies department are delivering a special module on global migration, ‘People on the move’. By the end of our visit, and by the end of the module, the students should be able to explain the causes of the current crisis and, importantly, to understand that Scotland has an important part to play in helping people during this crisis.

Martha, Scottish Refugee Council's training officer, sets out to challenge the students' preconceptions of refugees. It turns out the class is eager to learn and they hungrily absorb the new information Martha shares with them about the reasons so many people are forced to flee their homes.

After Martha's workshop, I talk to the students about what they have learned and how it has made them feel.

Kirkintilloch High School pupils









"It's shocking," says Erin."I'm shocked to learn that so many people live in refugee camps, including so many children. It's really unfair that people are forced to live like this and especially unfair that people are forced to escape on unsafe boats."

"I'm shocked too," says Abbie. "I didn't know that in some countries people are forced into marriage and I'm shocked that it's a crime to be gay in other countries."

"It makes me feel sick inside," says Cameron. "Especially learning about families being split up."

Most of the class express sadness at the situation refugees face and many are angry about the persecution people face around the world.

It's clear that these students are passionate and caring and empathise with the refugee experience. They arrange a fundraiser across the school to raise cash to help refugees in Scotland and abroad.

The students have absorbed a lot of information, some of it fairly complex and upsetting. I ask class teacher and principal teacher of history and modern studies, Mark Bowen, why he chose to explore this issue with his students. 

“As a group of social studies teachers we felt motivated by the migration crisis and decided to work together on an interdisciplinary project. We decided to focus on refugees and migration more broadly as it’s such an urgent and current issue. It is also a good fit with the Curriculum for Excellence for S2 across the history, geography and modern studies portfolio. I'm glad we chose this issue and were delighted to have SRC talk to the students. The students have loved learning about refugees, the teachers have loved it too. I’ve definitely learned from it and had my thinking challenged.”

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