Refugee background students

See information and resources that can help your school to support students from a refugee background.

Level of compliance Main audience Other


  • Educators, Teachers and Kaiako
  • Principals and Tumuaki
  • ESOL Staff
  • Learning Support Coordinators and SENCOs
  • RTLBs
  • Boards
  • Other Government Agencies

Accessing these tools and resources helps to generate positive learning outcomes for the students.

Refugee arrivals in New Zealand 

New Zealand accepts approximately 1500 refugees annually through the United Nations’ quota programme.

Quota refugees spend about five weeks at the Centre for Refugee Education at the Refugee Resettlement Centre in Mangere.

Refugees can also apply to sponsor family members to join them in New Zealand under the family reunification programme. The family members do not go through the Refugee Resettlement Centre.

There are also asylum seekers whose claim for refugee status is determined by Immigration New Zealand.

Find out where some of New Zealand’s recent refugee groups have come from. 

ESOL funding

English language learners from a refugee background qualify for ESOL funding in the same way as other English language learners. Refugees receive more intensive funding support for the first two years at school here, followed by three years of standard funding.

Find out more about funding criteria and amounts and how to apply for funding for a refugee background student.

Refugee Flexible Funding Pool

The Ministry has established a Refugee Flexible Funding Pool which offers schools additional resources to address broader issues that may prevent refugee background students from participating and achieving in mainstream schooling. Contact your nearest Senior Adviser for Refugee and Migrant Support for more information about this funding.

Supporting students from a refugee background

Some children from a refugee background may have been in camps for most of their lives. They may have no memory of ordinary life and little knowledge about their own country. They may have fallen years behind in education or have never had any formal education.

For some, the trauma of moving to a new country and learning a new language can be greater than previous traumas of war and refugee camps.

Senior Advisers for Refugee and Migrant Support

Senior Advisers for Refugee and Migrant Support are based in Ministry regional offices in Christchurch, Wellington, Hamilton and Auckland. The senior advisers liaise between refugee communities, agencies and schools to help with education and resettlement. They can also help your school work with Special Education Services to support students with high and complex needs.

Refugee Handbook for Schools

The Ministry of Education’s Refugee Handbook for Schools has detailed information to help schools support students from a refugee background, to help them learn and feel part of the school community and New Zealand society.

The handbook includes sections on:

  • welcoming students
  • enrolment, placement and monitoring
  • planning and delivering effective teaching programmes
  • using bilingual support workers
  • providing pastoral care
  • supporting students at transition points.

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