Enrolment and orientation

Enrolment is the school’s first opportunity to welcome refugee students and offer a positive experience so they feel safe and connected to their new community. For many refugee students, enrolling in a primary school in Australia is their first experience of school.

A nominated staff member, such as an EAL/D teacher or member of the school welfare team, helps with enrolment to collect relevant information and assess each student’s needs.

Enrolment strategies

  • Make sure an interpreter is available, if required. Use telephone interpreting and book an interpreter for another day, if necessary. Advice on interpreter services is available.
  • If this is the student's first enrolment in a NSW government school, assist the family to fill out the Application to enrol in a NSW government school form. Explain the purpose of the form. This form is available in a range of languages.
  • Make contact with the family's caseworker and get their contact details to assist in communicating with the family.
  • Ensure key school personnel, for example the school counsellor, an EAL/D teacher and welfare coordinator are informed when a refugee student is enrolling. A staff member may be nominated to assist in enrolment of refugee students, such as an EAL/D teacher or member of the school welfare team. Arrange for them to meet and greet the new student and family if possible.
  • Ensure other relevant information about a student's background, interests and talents, family situation and previous education is collected to inform the development of the student's learning plan. Show sensitivity when asking questions. Refugee students and their families may not feel safe providing personal information until they have developed a trusting relationship with school personnel.
  • Provide information about the school in first language if possible. This could include details of the uniform, bell times, activities, school rules and expectations, staff, homework and support provided for students.

Orientation strategies

  • Provide information about the school, in first language if possible. This could include information about uniform, bell times, learning activities, school rules and expectations, school staff, homework and assessment practices.
  • Ensure students and families/guardians are provided with information about support available for students, for example English as an additional language (EAL) teaching support, homework and tutorial support, help with uniforms and equipment, financial support to enable students to participate in excursions and other school activities, if needed.
  • Provide basic information about school routines as well as a school map and a timetable. It is important to recognise that for some refugee students, this may be their first experience of schooling. They may have no previous experience of school expectations and of reading and interpreting timetables and maps. Such students will need a highly scaffolded introduction to school routines and expectations.
  • Provide an orientation program for students to assist them in understanding school routines, practices and expectations.
  • Provide the student with a ‘buddy', preferably who speaks their first language. The buddy will need to be shown how to help the new student.
  • Identify a staff member who new students can approach for assistance, for example an EAL/D or classroom teacher, a year adviser or stage coordinator or welfare teacher. It is important to assign this role to a person who is at school every day and can be easily located at any time.
  • Consider providing students with a basic stationery pack on enrolment and explaining the need to bring basic school equipment to school, such as exercise books, pens, pencils and ruler.
  • Offer assistance with uniforms and equipment - many refugee families may struggle to provide new shoes and other uniform items for all their children on enrolment. Refugee families may find it difficult to buy expensive equipment, for example calculators and laptops.

The Welcome Program

Orientation programs, such as The Welcome Program, can support high school aged migrant and refugee students transferring from intensive English programs into mainstream high schools. Sessions include how to introduce students to high school routines, staff and expectations about behaviour and learning as well as a component for parents about schooling in Australia.


High school aged students have usually already attended an intensive English program but when transitioning to a mainstream high school may require intensive support for some time.  It’s vital that refugee students are given an orientation to their new school so they feel safe and welcome and can learn about routines and expectations. See more in the video on effective enrolment and orientation process.

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