Targeted support

Targeted support may be necessary to assist refugee students to develop English language proficiency and succeed at school.

Planning resources

The following resources can help schools plan targeted support for refugee students.

English as an additional language or dialect support

Refugee students with disrupted or limited education usually require English as an additional language or dialect and literacy support. It may take them longer to achieve curriculum content and language outcomes than other EAL/D students, as they may not possess the curriculum content knowledge or literacy skills in their first language from which to build any new knowledge.

For more information see EAL/D education.

Bilingual support

Providing bilingual support can help schools communicate clearly with newly arrived students and families and make them feel safe. School Learning Support Officers Bilingual (SLSO Bilingual) can provide bilingual support for students in the classroom and assist schools in working with parents and community members. Schools with newly enrolled refugee students may be eligible to receive a bilingual teaching support allocation. For more information see New Arrivals Program.

The department provides interpreting and translation services for parents and carers who do not speak or understand English well and for hearing impaired parents and carers who use sign language. A large number of department publications have been translated in many languages.

Watch the video on bilingual support for students and their families.

Counsellor support

School counsellors can assist teaching staff to understand the influences of trauma on students’ learning and behaviour. Counsellors can provide direct counselling to individuals or groups of students. They also help access additional community support and, where appropriate, make referrals to specialist services.

The Refugee Student Counselling Support Team offers psychological expertise to schools to support refugee students and their families. For more information, phone 1300 579 060 or email

In some cases referral of students to the NSW Service for the Treatment and Rehabilitation of Torture and Trauma Survivors (STARTTS) by the school counsellor may be appropriate.

Learn how school counsellors can help support refugee students in the video on counsellor support.

Using a small group approach

At times, the school counsellor may feel that establishing a small group program will assist ongoing counselling by enabling the students to meet and learn from each other. The counsellor will be involved in planning and implementing the program.

There are a number of advantages to counselling using a small group program approach:

  • Many students are from countries where there are no counsellors, or there is a belief that counselling is only for ‘sick' people. A group situation provides a comfortable context for students to gain an understanding of counsellors and counselling.
  • Refugees are often fearful of disclosing things to people in authority. A group situation provides a counselling setting in which to provide information and advice while building trusting relationships.
  • Young people often feel uncomfortable about being singled out to see the counsellor. A group program helps to reduce feelings of stigmatisation.
  • A group setting helps to normalise feelings and reactions among peers.
  • Groups provide opportunities for students to gain psycho-educational perspectives on trauma, an important process for those who have lived through war and political upheaval.
  • Groups provide an opportunity to re-establish social bonds and connection.
  • A group setting provides a context in which to develop skills for resettlement and resilience.
  • A group situation provides an opportunity to identify students at risk, facilitating early intervention and referral to services.

The Settling In Program (STARTTS) is an early intervention group for newly-arrived migrant and refugee students, conducted by trained school counsellors and teachers with interpreter assistance.

This program helps students adjust to life in Australia and includes talking about feelings, dealing with anger, anxiety and sadness, people and places that can help, goal setting, problem solving, personal strengths and socialisation.

STARTTS supports children and young people using small group programs from their School Liaison Program.


  • DoE

Business Unit:

  • Educational Standards
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