From time to time we publish posts from students, where we think their work merits a wider audience. This blog,  entitled ‘Education, immigration, integration! Perceptions of the impact of migration since the 2004 EU enlargement on education in Scotland’, is by  Kirsten Anderson. The full dissertation on which it is based can be viewed here.

How migrant pupils from Central & Eastern Europe are perceived in the Scottish school system and how well equipped teachers feel to educate them is an increasingly important issue, given the growing number of these pupils in Scottish schools.

The principal objective of the research was to provide an insight into how the issue of increasing numbers of migrant pupils from Central & Eastern Europe in Scottish secondary schools is presented, perceived, and experienced both by people working in schools and colleges, and in the Scottish educational media.  Teachers from Glasgow and the surrounding area were interviewed in order to obtain in-depth information about how individual practitioners across a range of sectors perceive and respond to the challenges and opportunities that have emerged as a result of an increase in the number of migrant pupils from Central & Eastern Europe.  A critical discourse analysis of articles in the educational press was also carried out in order to establish what which perceptions of migration, migrants and their impact on UK society and the provision of public services such as education in the UK are prevalent in the educational media.


Semi-structured interviews were carried out with a sample of five teachers and student teachers from a range of backgrounds, experience levels and sectors.  The criteria for participation was that participants must have had experience of working in a school in Glasgow or one of the surrounding local authorities since 2004.This sample, while in no way representative of the teaching population as a whole, did allow for a broad range of experiences of and attitudes towards the impact of EU migration to be explored in depth.

A discourse analysis was undertaken on three articles on this topic from the Times Educational Supplement Scotland, which was selected due to its regional specificity (pertains only to Scottish education) and its target readership (education professionals).  The articles analysed were selected by searching for archived articles on the TES website dating from 2004 and using the search term “Eastern European”, Boolean operator “+”, and “migrant”. The analysis considered both content and language, looking at how the articles contributed to perceptions of the impact of EU migration on Scottish education.

Key findings

Teachers see increased migration as a chance for Scottish pupils to become familiar with other cultures and languages, but felt that a lack of training for teachers meant that they  failed to make the most of this opportunity.

Participants saw language barriers as the main obstacle that recent arrivals had to overcome, but acknowledged that there were issues of discrimination and cultural differences too.

Teachers identified the need for well-prepared bilingual or translated resources in order to ensure that new arrivals were taught at an appropriate level, rather than being held back due to a lack of English.

The media and teachers presented different views on the solutions to the challenges presented by European migration; the press emphasised the need for more EAL and bilingual support for pupils, whereas teachers wanted more training on how they could help bi-lingual learners.

Lack of funding for teacher training and basic resources (such as translation dictionaries) exacerbates an already challenging situation.


The study revealed a mixture of optimism about the opportunities presented to Scottish education by migration, and frustration at their lack of ability to take advantage of these opportunities.  The main source of frustration was the lack of training and support to which teachers had access.  Although some participants expressed awareness of negative attitudes, hostility or discrimination towards Eastern European migrants, there was only one concrete example alluded to during the interviews. The media articles analysed emphasise the large scale of EU migration to Scotland and in particular the increase in demand for education services as a result. The capacity of the education system in Scotland to provide appropriate support for migrant pupils was called into question.  Nevertheless, there were consistent references to the potential benefits migrant pupils and students could bring to Scotland’s culture and economy, if appropriately supported.

Policy implications

The small scale of this study makes it difficult to make specific recommendations for policy and practice, but further research should be undertaken into what teachers see as the key resources that should be in place for supporting migrant pupils from Central and Eastern Europe to access the curriculum and integrate successfully into the school and the wider community.

Recommendations for further research

For follow up research, it is suggested that a case study of a school which has a high proportion of its intake who are migrants from Central & Eastern Europe countries would be a useful starting point from which to examine the specific strategies used and assess their effectiveness. If this could be replicated across a number of areas (both urban and rural) and local authorities, it would assist the development of a national strategy which would help establish equality in provision of education services for all. Such research is crucial to help ensure that Scottish schools can meet the standards laid down for them by the Education Scotland Act 2004, an obligation that will benefit all pupils – migrant or not.


Kirsten Anderson qualified as an English Teacher in 2008. Since then, she has taught English and ESOL in Scotland and Poland. Having graduated with an MA in Polish and Central & East European Studies, he is currently studying for an MPhil in Czech studies, focusing on developments in the Czech education system since 1989.

1 Comment

  1. This is a very interesting piece indeed and raises some very good points. Having worked extensively with international schools, (mostly serving expat populations) there may well be some mileage for Scottish schools to take a close look at how some of these schools serve the needs of a very diverse group of students, particularly around language acquisition and development. There are some interesting findings concerning the importance of schools providing good mother tongue lessons as well as EAL.

    Additionally I think the point you raise about culture is a very good one as it is something I too rarely see being offered as part of teacher professional development. There are a lot of good ideas around developing global citizenship but often they don’t specifically help teachers to learn about real cultural similarities and differences. If we are dealing with migrant children, we really should know more about their cultural background and how that might impact on our teaching.

    Will be interested to read any follow-up studies that might happen.


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