University research to explore the experiences of migrant children


Academics at Leeds Trinity University are partnering with a local charity to conduct ground-breaking research on the impact of volunteering on the education and lives of Romanian students.

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Leeds Trinity is working with CATCH, a community-focused charity in Harehills which aims to deliver youth provision and volunteering opportunities in a modern and safe youth space.  Its volunteering programme focuses on engaging with young people from the local community with the aim of building soft skills such as confidence, trust and communication. CATCH gives young people a voice, flexibility to be creative, help develop their practical skills and knowledge, by delivering informal activities alongside workshops and trips which all help to create positive pathways such as into further education, additional training courses, apprenticeships and even careers.

The project is currently examining the life and educational challenges faced by Romanian students in two mainstream schools and a college in Leeds. It will explore the extent to which the CATCH volunteering programme addresses these challenges and will identify any strengths or limitations to help inform further development.

This is the first study in the UK to focus on the education of Romanian students and will provide insight into their lives in Harehills, one of the most deprived areas in England where many residents are immigrants.  

The research project also aims to provide evidence to support recommendations for volunteering activities to form part of the school curriculum, to support all students, including those from migrant communities. 

Interviews are being conducted with students, parents, headteachers and class teachers. The data gathered to date has been analysed and was reported at Leeds Trinity’s annual research conference at the end of March.  Initial findings suggest that the support and opportunities provided by CATCH are highly valued by the children and their families, with parents reporting increased levels of determination, responsibility, self-belief and self-regulation from their children. Full findings will follow when the interviews and analysis are complete.

Professor of Education in the Institute of Childhood and Education at Leeds Trinity University, Sulochini Pather said: “Given the dearth of research around education for Eastern European students in the UK, this is a significant project which provides a snapshot of the lives and education of Romanian children living in a community in Leeds where there are high levels of social and economic disadvantage.  We are indebted to the students and parents associated with CATCH for their participation in this project and for sharing their personal thoughts and reflections. Members of CATCH have been instrumental in co-producing this research and this builds on relationships established between Leeds Trinity, CATCH and the schools in the project, as part of the Leeds Learning Alliance. Future research plans at Leeds Trinity in collaboration with other university partners, include extending the focus to other groups of Eastern European students and other migrant communities, an area of study in the UK which remains under-researched."

Jen Wilkins, Volunteer Development Coordinator of Harehills based charity said "It is an amazing opportunity for our young people to be a part of this research project.  It will help us to understand and evidence the impact of the work within this local community to which many of our young people dedicate so many hours of their time." 

The project will close in July 2022, with an aim to extend the study to include students from other eastern European and other migrant communities in future.

The research is funded through a Research England grant which is administered by Leeds Trinity and was awarded to the project in February 2022. 

Read more about Leeds Trinity’s research on the website.