22 / 2005
Geri Smyth


The dispersal of around 1200 children from asylum seeking families across Britain to schools in the city of Glasgow, Scotland, resulted in the setting up of the Glasgow Asylum Seekers Support Project (GASSP) funded by National Asylum Seekers’ Support (NASS). The educational wing of this project established bilingual units in schools across Glasgow, in which specialist teachers would support the English language development of the newly arrived pupils while enabling their integration into the mainstream classes by team teaching.

What happens when a monolingual school in an economically deprived area of an inner city becomes a multilingual, multiracial school as a result of government policy (The Immigration and Asylum Act)? How do children from asylum seeking families, many of whom have never had formal education prior to arriving in Scotland and all of whom are new to the English language, make meaning of the school community?
This paper will report on how a bilingual unit has become an integral part of the mainstream school due to creative pedagogy and how the school has accessed what the pupils already know in order to help them make sense of learning in a new language.
The paper is based on ethnographic research, conducted as part of the European CLASP project, in the bilingual unit of one primary school in Glasgow, Scotland. The collaborative ethos developed between base and mainstream teachers influenced the ways in which the children were enabled to make decisions about their learning and this in turn influenced the pedagogy of the whole school.
The paper will discuss how this highly mobile pupil population has enabled the school to take more cognisance of learner perspectives and has allowed a creative pedagogy to emerge in the school.