Existing and Exacerbated Educational Inequities for Newcomer Students in COVID-19: School Settlement Workers Respond

Amanda Gebhard, University of Regina, Fritz Pino, University of Regina, and Willow Samara Allen, University of Victoria

Students across the country are coping with the impacts of a relentlessly shifting educational landscape imposed by COVID-19. At school, as in society broadly, the pandemic’s impacts are most deeply felt within marginalized communities, including newcomer students in schools, whose services and supports were already limited. School-based services provided by settlement agencies are especially critical for newcomer children and youth during this time. School settlement workers provide many services linked to positive academic and social outcomes, including academic support, counselling and mentorship, advocacy, crisis intervention, and school climate-building. Deeply concerned about the disruptions of COVID-19 on the ability of school settlement workers to deliver essential services to students and families integrating into the education system and society, Saskatchewan Association of Immigrant Settlement and Integration Agencies (SAISIA), initiated a research partnership with the University of Regina, Faculty of Social Work. Our collaborative project’s overarching goal is to produce evidence-based knowledge to respond to SAISIA’s urgent needs to bolster existing strategies and tools for school settlement workers to improve service provision immediately and beyond the pandemic. Employing community-based research and appreciative inquiry, methodologies which foreground the research participants’ expertise and agency and the partner organization’s involvement, this project’s key objectives are to: 1) generate in-depth knowledge of how school settlement workers in Saskatchewan are responding to educational inequities for newcomer youth exacerbated by COVID-19, and 2) produce specific recommendations to guide the School Settlement Coordination program in the delivery of services to mitigate the impacts of COVID-19 on newcomer students’ outcomes. This project will advance cross-disciplinary connections between settlement, social work and education, and have immediate applications to the delivery of needed integration supports during ongoing pandemic-related educational shifts. Through wide-reaching and accessible knowledge mobilization, findings will inform policy-makers and educators in shaping equitable school-based settlement policy, services, and curriculum.

Research Team: Dr. Amanda Gebhard (PI, University of Regina), Dr. Fritz Pino (Co-investigator, University of Regina), Dr. Willow Samara Allen (Co-investigator, University of Victoria, and Maryam Karimi (partner organization representative, the Saskatchewan Settlement Workers in Schools Program Coordinator).

Funding: University of Regina, The Community Research and Action Fund and Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council Partnership Engagement Grants – Special Initiative COVID-19

Research Status: Currently in the research phase

Contact: Amanda GerhardFritz PinoWillow Allen



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