Research being presented today in Glasgow shows that Glasgow Clyde College is leading the way in educating young people who have been trafficked or arrived in Scotland alone seeking asylum.

Read the full research report here: Towards Best Practice in Educating Separated Children. You can also watch back the live stream of the conference on YouTube here.

On average, five children arrive in Scotland every month who have been trafficked or are seeking asylum, according to the Scottish Guardianship Service who currently work with over 200 young people.

Young people in this situation have enormous resilience and strength, but without English language skills, may struggle to integrate in their new communities and feel isolated. Throwing a young person in this situation straight into a Scottish school or college can be overwhelming as a result of the trauma they have been through, and adult ESOL classes are difficult too, as they will be in a classroom with people of all ages and experiences. Young people just need a chance to be young people, in order to grow and thrive. Research being presented in Glasgow today shows that educating separated young people in a supportive, understanding environment can lead to them achieving their potential.

For over a decade, Glasgow Clyde College has developed and delivered a language and education course, the “16+ESOL” programme, to separated children aged 16-18 arriving in Scotland alone.  During this time, lecturers have worked closely with staff from the Scottish Guardianship Service to support the welfare and well-being needs of these young people.

This project recognises that unaccompanied children have specific educational needs. It is important that students in the 16+ESOL programme are supported to learn English alongside other subjects and activities, in a supportive and encouraging environment, to help them reach their potential. There is a need to learn about the local/national culture, and to adapt to the structure of the classroom. Ensuring that young people feel safe and have means to deal with anxiety and the impact of trauma is crucial, alongside building opportunities for social connections and friendships inside and outside of college. The 16+ESOL programme aims to do this.

Mohammed, 19, a former student, says: “The 16+ESOL programme helped me to build my life in Scotland. I met lots of new friends through it, and I wish everyone in my situation had the chance to do this.”

Today, new research will be presented in Glasgow which documents what has been learnt through the 16+ESOL project, the specific needs of separate children, and compares this research against international practice. Scotland has a pioneering approach to supporting separated children, thanks to tireless work by the Scottish Guardianship Service and Glasgow Clyde College.

Lyn Ma, Senior ESOL Lecturer at Glasgow Clyde College, says: “We are delighted to have this opportunity to share this research and hope very much that this will be helpful for other educational professionals working with young people in this situation.”


On Wednesday 25th September, a conference will be held in Glasgow to present new research into the educational and language needs of children who were trafficked into Scotland for exploitation, or who arrived here alone seeking asylum.

The conference is the culmination of the project Towards Best Practice in Education Separated Children in Scotland (16-18) led by Scottish Refugee Council, Aberlour Childcare Trust and Glasgow Clyde College with Stirling University as academic partner.

Read the ESOL Routes to Learning guide.

For more advice and information on planning and delivering learning to young unaccompanied asylum seekers and refugees, visit Education Scotland’s website.

Chris Pettigrew
Author: Chris Pettigrew