This paper examines key educational transitions faced by refugee and asylum seeking children in the context of their integration into Irish society, in recognition that transitions and how they are experienced, are now considered as central to young children’s well-being. It draws on research carried out in 2011 which focused on experiences of migrant parents and children vis-a-vis the educational process in Ireland. In 2008 12% of children in Irish primary schools and 7% in post-primary schools, were the children of migrants or foreign-born parents. Research on the Irish education system has highlighted a tendency among teachers to understate difference and diverse identities and needs of students. (Lynch and Lodge 2002) While the educational needs of this group of children overlap with those of children in the general population, they have requirements particular to their past and present experiences as refugee children. It has been well established in research that educational success is essential for refugee children's acculturation and has the potential to provide some continuity and connection to the more positive aspects of their lives.
This research, therefore, examined school as a key institution that can provide a context in which children are facilitated in integrating into the social fabric of communities. It focused on parents’ personal experiences of education in Ireland, with a concentration on pre-school and primary sectors, and within the context of their overall orientation to and expectations of education. Recognising the correlation between educational achievement and social equality, the research examined factors that influence educational participation and attainment, social and educational needs, as expressed by parents of this cohort of children, and the strengths they bring to the educational setting. Within the research context, transitions are conceptualised as more than a ‘one-point’ event but rather as a multi-layered process, involving multiple continuities and discontinuities of experience. (Petriwskyj et al 2005) It addresses issues of conflict and continuity in relation to movement between family domains and education settings. On the other hand, the study also points to the cultural borders that immigrant families and children face as ECCE settings may be the first context in which they confront such differences. (Vogler 2008) The findings, in general, highlight the role of religion; the social and educational impact of living in the direct provision accommodation in which those seeking asylum in Ireland are housed; practical issues associated with participation in education such as transport; communication with schools/parental involvement. This paper throws light on the more contemporary understandings and responses to cultural diversity within educational contexts in Ireland, through a focus on key educational transitions and parents’ perceptions and experiences of them.