Europe’s learners and education personnel are becoming more diverse. The project “Education Trade Unions and Inclusive Schools: Embracing Diversity in Education” is building capacity so that education trade unions can prepare their members to address the many forms of diversity they encounter in the classroom and in society: socioeconomic, cultural, linguistic and more. ETUCE and member organisations aim to support education personnel in creating inclusive learning environments where every student and teacher can achieve their full potential.

Advisory Group

  • Manos Androulakis DOE Greece
  • Alison Gilliland INTO Ireland
  • Conceiçao Nunes SINDEP Portugal
  • Alexandra Cornea FSLI Romania
  • Lyhykäinen Päivi OAJ Finland
  • Igor Radeka IURHEEC Croatia


This project is funded with support from the European Commission.

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Khazar Lotfi

Khazar Lotfi, English Teacher, The Netherlands

Are there any obstacles that you face/have faced in your everyday work as a teacher linked to your migrant background?

As a teacher in a majority-minority city who teaches students from different ethnic backgrounds I don’t feel like I have faced any obstacles in the classroom, if anything it might actually help me to understand some of the difficulties and struggles my students face in this society better.

In your opinion, what support do teachers with migrant background need?

I think that it’s very important to be able to do our jobs in an inclusive environment. While most of our students have different ethnic backgrounds this is not the case for our colleagues. Support would be best given by the schoolboard by raising awareness and taking a stand when it comes down to issues like racism and discrimination.

In your experience, what key support do teachers working with students with migrant and refugee background need in their everyday work?

Universities and colleges that educate teachers or are supposed to do so have to pay more attention to this. Momentarily, diversity and inclusion are themes that are merely mentioned and briefly touched upon whereas teachers need to learn how to communicate and connect with different students and with students that are different from them. This applies to everyone, including teachers (in training) with a migrant background. 

Mary Osei Oppong Scotland

Mary Osei-Oppong, migrated from Ghana to Scotland, author of "For The Love Of Teaching; The Anti-Racist Battlefield in Education”, EIS member, Scotland

I experienced many forms of racism during my career, over two decades. The most telling of all without a doubt is institutionalised racism and microaggression which could be used to invalidate the ability of someone from a Black background, and in my opinion, the most damaging one. 

The insidious microaggression forms of racism I encountered and suffered from, were the everyday insults, digs, belittlement, indignities and also demeaning comments. 

It has never been acceptable for people to say they are not racist and have black friends, when their actions cause racial harm. I urge all of us regardless of race, gender, religious affiliation, sexual orientation or socio-economic class, to work together towards equal opportunity for all in society. 

Racism is a global human rights issue and is not merely a perception and hopefully the opportunity is not lost. A lot of serious thinking and difficult conversations must take place to resolve the institutionalised racism, otherwise, the next generation of Black Minority Ethnic children would be confronted by the same problem and society would be at a loss. 

The problem in the workplace is, most people, if not all, are protecting their job and turn a blind eye to injustices, afraid of being punished or worse - lose their job, and by doing so makes them complicit.  

My book "For The Love of Teaching; The Anti-Racist Battlefield in Education" gives help and advice on building resilience, inspiration, determination, commitment and my overall experiences would resonate with colleagues and would be a great benefit to all readers.

Maija Yli-Jokipii, University Teacher, University of Tampere, Finland

Marika Koff, Mother tongue Teacher, Espoo and Kauniainen, Finland

Samran Khezri, Native language teacher, Turku normaalikoulu school, Finland

Check testimonies from Finish teachers and teacher trainers about the valuable assets of having teachers with an immigrant backgrdound in a video „Diverse students, diverse teachers” prepared by the University of Turku’s Teacher Education Department in the framework of their project Dived. The project is the first of its kind in Finland focusing on teacher education and involving universities which have been involved in teaching students with an immigrant backround. The project also includes in-service training for teacher and numerous good practices and resources for teachers based on the research. Education Trade Union OAJ has also been part of the project.  


Natalija Veselič Martinjak Slovenia

Natalija Veselič Martinjak, Art teacher in primary education, Slovenia

When working with migrant children you as a teacher – and at first as a person – definitely need to be enthusiastic, kind, have the ability to listen actively and to fully accept diversity without any prejudices. A smile, empathy, communicating with friendly pantomime and drawings, maybe with help of some simple words in different languages are also essential. The very best thing you can give to these children is the feeling of being accepted and safe. To be able to do all this you as a teacher need empathy, encouragement, support and confidence from a school leadership. A high level of professional autonomy is the key element, besides that you need all the technical support in different teaching materials and continuous professional training. Me as a teacher working with migrant children would surely welcome some kind of platform where teachers could share our experience and good practices and at first support each other. Without any prejudices and criticism. 

 Sandra Mihalič Slovenia

Sandra Mihalič, primary school teacher, Slovenia

For many years now through every school year our school welcomes at least ten migrant children, mainly from different European countries. As they come from very diverse family and educational backgrounds each student needs an individual approach. As a teacher of Slovenian language for foreign pupils I sure need a lot of teaching materials to ease them learning of new words. I also help migrant children to integrate to the new environment and as me and my colleagues miss that  a Slovene language course for immigrant students doesn’t also include the possibility of learning the language for students’ siblings and parents too. This option would sure reduce some stress migrant children are facing entering new school system.

 Darinka Dekleva Slovenia

Darinka Dekleva, social worker in primary education, Slovenia

As a social worker in a school counsellor team, I’m the first person in school who gets in touch with migrant children and their parents. In this role – providing the optimal conditions for learning and integration for each individual immigrant child – I miss the relevant data about their former educational path and the knowledge they gained so far. When we welcome a new migrant child, I’m frightened (and full of hope at the same time) that our national curriculum won’t cause him to much troubles. Level of my empathy with immigrant children and their families gets even more intense as I am a mother of three children who are looking for their professional opportunities outside Slovenia. It would be of a great help if we could have additional teachers who would mentor migrant children and teaching them Slovenian for so long they would become independent speakers. The current situation of the COVID-19 pandemics has also risen many new challenges in working with migrant children. 

 Mileta Grujić Slovenia

Mileta Grujić, composer and musician, headteacher, Slovenia

In Serbia, where I come from, I was a music teacher in a secondary school and then also a headteacher. I live in Slovenia since 2015, first I was self-employed in culture sector as I also play a piano in a band of a known Slovenian singer. I performed on over eighty concerts, also on two national celebrations. In March this year I got a temporary job as a music art teacher in primary school and after that became a headteacher of this the same school which is one of the smallest schools in Slovenia. I have always worked with a lot of people and I have never felt as a foreigner or a migrant – neither as a teacher nor as a musician. Also, now as a headteacher I feel like I’m at home. I have also made a lot of new contacts here as I – now when schools are closed due to covid-19 – deliver warm meals to our pupils. When I was still looking for a job always when my application was rejected it was because I didn’t meet the conditions needed for the position (some exams from Serbia are not valid in Slovenia). I have never noticed that it had something to do with my migrant background. In my personal opinion migrant background has not much to do with working results. What matters the most is what you are like as a person. Maybe it was easier for me as I always thought of Slovenia as a part of my country – former Yugoslavia.

 Charlotte Holm Denmark

Charlotte Holm, teacher to students with refugee and migrant background, member of DLF, Denmark

It is crucial that migrant students experience recognition in the classroom, but also in society. Teachers are ambassadors for migrant children, and politicians must act responsibly and combat the hostile rhetoric on migration and refugees in society. The negative approach affects the benefits of the learning by these students. Therefore, action is required now!

 Cagri Pekoz Cyprus

Çağrı Peköz, early childhood education teacher, Cyprus

All teachers, regardless if they are working with migrant and refugee children or not, must be equipped with necessary training and tools to guide children to develop critical consciousness. Besides academic achievement, education must contribute to the migrant and refugee children’s realities.

 Juri Haas Germany

Juri Haas, primary school teacher and leadership team member of GEW federal committee on migration, antidiscrimination and diversity, Germany

For me, inclusive school in a society of migrations means that we do our best to ensure that students and their families do not feel excluded or undervalued. School approaches causing exclusion should be questioned by all those involved in them. To be inclusive, schools need sufficient staff resources, so we can also take into account individual needs and have the necessary time to improve the school environment.

Untitled design 3Ramona ROSU, teacher in primary education, Romania

"From my point of view, teachers who work with children with disabilities need a good professional training (initial and continuous), which is fundamental in finding and understanding their needs.

The legislative framework is very important because, through it, teachers come to the right support for each child with special educational needs, knowing all the steps they have to go through.

The support of the family, support staff (school therapists, psychologists, speech therapists,..) and curricular adaptation are needed in these situations.
In fact, teachers need to adapt their entire activity to work with students with SEN, especially if they need to integrate them into mainstream education, differentiation being the common inclusive practice.

Moreover, teachers need a lot of patience, dedication and professionalism..."

Untitled design 4Lucia IONESCU, FSLI, teacher, primary education, Romania

"All children need love, encouragement, and support, and for kids with SEN, such positive reinforcement can help ensure that they emerge with a strong sense of self-worth, confidence, and the determination to keep going even when things are tough.

Maria is a 3rd grade pupil with spastic tetraparesis which means she has issuse for walking and using her hands. I met her in Preparatory Class and she was integrated with a lot of love by her 36 colleagues. In searching for ways to help Maria to be integrated in kids group I knew I have to help her integrate by herself.

I know that as a teacher, I am a model for my pupils and the way I respond to challenges has a big impact in the group. The lesson I learned is even though a teacher’ s good attitude will not solve the problems associated with disabilities, it can give  the child with SEN hope and confidence."

Untitled design 1Filomena Lopes – Multidisciplinary Team for Inclusive Education Coordinator with direct intervention with students from the lower and upper secondary, Portugal

"As a teacher for special education needs and also, as a multidisciplinary team for Inclusion Education coordinator, one of the most important things I’d like to emphasize is the positive experiences and emotions that I’ve been living with students with special needs. The foundations for an inclusive education lie exactly in the significant affective bonds with the students.

The model we have, now in Portugal, based in a multidisciplinary intervention with the participation of all the actors [teachers, school direction, teachers for special education, students and parents]  is contributing to the real success of the students, because this model eliminates all the barriers to the learning process;

It’s urgent that the teachers assume this new Decree-Law on Inclusive Education to work for the success of their students, focusing their strategies not in the difficulties/challenges, not on what they cannot achieve but focusing on the opportunities, on the students’ potentials, turning the weaknesses into strengths, promoting the development of social healthy relationships, boosting the autonomy skills and the resilience capacities."

Untitled designCarla Freire – Teacher for Special Education [SE] with direct intervention with students from the lower and upper secondary, Portugal

What support do teachers for SE need in their everyday work?

"More communication at school: among teachers; between the form teacher and the teacher for SE; between the teacher for SE and families. There is a general lack of dialogue either because people don’t communicate effectively or because of too many misunderstandings in communication, mostly due to prejudices and stereotypes.

More time at school: teachers shouldn’t always be running against time because of too many classes with too many students. They should also be relieved from the so many bureaucratic tasks that don’t leave them time for planning and teaching. We need productive time to meet each other to define the right plans for these students.

Teachers need CPD to get some more knowledge, and information to meet the right educational strategies for the students.

Teachers for SE should also be released from so many responsibilities and burden they have. Either at school or in the privacy of their homeplaces they are teachers, nurses, psychologists, confidents, fathers, mothers, siblings, or friends, both for the students and their families… and it is understandable because they don’t get social support, most of the times the only support they get is actually from the school."

Untitled design 2George Mougios, 29 years old, Substitute (contract) Special Education Teacher in Primary Education for the past 7 years, Greece

“For us, special education teachers, in order to become more effective in achieving the expected pedagogical goals for the benefits of our students with special needs and abilities through our everyday intervention in school, it is very important that the state, in addition to moral support, provides us with all the necessary initial and in the job training and the up-to-date educational and technological means."

Untitled design8Maggie Greene, primary school teacher in Letterkenny Educate Together National School, living with MS, Ireland

"Everybody has the right to quality education, no matter our differences. Today on International Day of Persons with Disabilities, we take action for the inclusion of persons with disabilities in education and in all aspects of society. As a primary teacher in Ireland living with a multiple sclerosis (MS), I’m proud to add my name to this important campaign. We must make sure our schools are safe spaces for teachers living and working with disabilities."