Year 9 students at Futures Institute, Banbury, recently welcomed the Red Cross to the school for a workshop on Empathy and Migration.

At a time when conflicts in Ukraine and the Middle East are displacing thousands of families, education around migration and the plight of refugees has never been more pressing. The pupils aged 13 and 14 explored definitions of refugee and ‘asylum seeker,’ and undertook imaginative exercises to better understand the reasons people flee their homes.

Dr Cat Pickup, Director of Project Learning at Futures, explained why the workshop was particularly important:

“The community at Futures is diverse and inclusive. Many of our students have origins in other countries and some have refugee backgrounds. We want all students to think critically around this subject and to resist some of the divisive narratives we see all too frequently, particularly on social media.”

Red Cross Community Education seeks to build understanding and empathy through its education programme as well as challenging assumptions about migrants, asylum seekers and refugees. Sue Stovell led the workshop, sharing the stories and experiences of refugees and asking the students to respond to them in their own writing.

“The responses were mature and thought-provoking,” she said, “and it was encouraging to see the levels of empathy expressed throughout the workshop. I think many of the young people involved appreciated their own safety and security more having listened to genuine refugee experiences. Sadly, there will always be events which mean people have to flee their homes. Learning to show empathy and support is an important way we can contribute.”

During a school trip to Geneva last year Futures’ students visited the Red Cross headquarters to learn more about the work of the organisation.

Dr Pickup commented, “We undertake a lot of ‘real world’ learning at the school and working with the Red Cross gives the students a real insight into lives beyond our campus. The workshop was a great opportunity to reinforce our British values of tolerance and to engender more kindness and empathy.”