Teaching Tolerance: A lesson on Cultural Diversity in the UK

Educating children on the growing diversity of our population has arguably never been more relevant.  As we witness what is considered by many as the most devastating humanitarian crisis of our time, it is imperative we provide the opportunity for students to develop tolerance, and understanding  as well as an awareness of the contribution refugees make to the UK.

In a country that consists of over 270 nationalities and 300 languages questions of culture and identity in the classroom are understandably unavoidable. As a teacher this can be difficult and delicate terrain to navigate.  We have collated a list of readily available resources to equip you with tools to effectively address the current refugee crisis to your class with confidence and compassion.

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The UN Refugee Agency

The UNHCR website features a Kids Zone with various age appropriate games and information for children. In addition there is a comprehensive list of lesson plans covering a range of subjects to encourage empathy and understanding.

British Red Cross

The British Red Cross provides an array of educational ideas to promote and encourage cultural diversity and acceptance. The Refugee Welcome encourages students learn words of welcome in a refugee or migrant’s mother tongue, “Learning a few words in an unfamiliar language is a fun challenge for any age group. Choosing what to learn based on what would be useful to a refugee in your area demonstrates how simple acts can make a big difference to someone else”,  PJ White.

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Syrian refugees recieve support from The Red Cross.

Oxfam Education Resources

Oxfam have developed a number or pages specifically dedicated to teaching children about asylum seekers and refugees and in particular the Syrian Refugee crisis. Included are Notes to Teachers detailing further resources, lesson plans for exploring crisis in greater depth and a Youth Activation Guide to encourage those students wanting to contribute.

Traces Project

The Traces Project is a unique initiative that was developed in an effort to draw attention to the history of artistic achievement by those who have sought refuge in the UK. With a highly interactive social media platform and a unique educational programme, The Traces Project was designed to engage with young learners and help them to discover individual stories and plights made by refugees.   Each discipline is accompanied by a series of Learning Activities encouraging students to appreciate cultural diversity and the contribution made by those now living in the UK.

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“Wish” by Hong Dam. Hong’s artistic expression is rooted in her experience as an eight year old girl fleeing Vietnam for Hong Kong before arriving in the UK in 1980.


Schools have become not only a place to achieve academically; they are also an environment that supports community interaction and social relationships.  As educators is it our responsibility to teach an understanding of difference and compassion.

“Learning to live together with peoples whose culture, religion, history and personal traumatic stories are different from our own educates us. It makes us different people. It teaches us to be liberal in a deeper way than we could possibly learn from a book. The essential idea of Europe is based not only on égalité and liberté, but also on fraternité” . Orhan Pamuk, winner of the Nobel prize for literature in 2006.

If you wish to contribute in some way to the relief effort: Oxfam has a donate to the Syria Crisis Appeal.

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