This research was set within the context of the refugee crisis and children and young people’s (CYP) rights. This study aimed to explore the educational experiences of unaccompanied children and young people (UCYP), a particularly high-risk group who are separated from their parents due to reasons such as war, persecution or violence, and whom do not have the protection of a responsible adult. A systematic literature review indicated a paucity of research around UCYP’s educational experiences from their perspective. To address this gap, qualitative emancipatory and exploratory research was undertaken which encompassed the following research question: ‘What factors contribute to UCYP’s positive experiences within the education setting?’ The research employed a participatory approach and used visual participatory methods (camera walking tours and collages) to explore the views of five UCYP (aged 16 to 18) attending an English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) course within college. Data was produced in the form of photographs with accompanying written text, notes from discussions with UCYP, and collages created from magazine and newspaper cuttings. The visual and written data was analysed using thematic analysis. The research indicated that the education setting provided an environment within which UCYP could fulfil a range of needs (physical, social, emotional, and spiritual). It provided a secure base where they could meet their basic needs for food and shelter and develop relationships with teachers and peers which was important for their sense of belonging and wellbeing. Furthermore, the young people held high aspirations for themselves and their future, and saw education, and speaking English, as essential for meeting these goals. The researcher reflected on the strengths and limitations in undertaking a participatory design and in conducting emancipatory research. Implications for EP practice were outlined which includes promoting the importance of relationships and cultural diversity through consultation and training and using visual participatory approaches to promote the voice of CYP.

DOI: 10.15123/uel.887yw