Migration to Britain: Crossing the Channel

Consider why migrants decide to risk the dangerous journey across the Channel to Britain, and build learners’ empathy and understanding.

The front part of a boat crossing the channel.
11 - 16
Lesson plan
PSHE, Tutor time
Refugees and migration, Newsthink

Migration to Britain has featured heavily in the news over the last few years. Reports of small boats arriving on the coast of England carrying migrants and refugees hoping to reach the UK have featured in news and discussion in local and national media.

Learners will build empathy in a role-play activity, thinking about the reasons why people choose or are forced to leave their homes. They will also consider positive and negative attitudes towards migrants and why people may feel this way.

A quick quiz will put the UK experience of refugees in a more global context. Learners will look at the scale of refugee crises around the world and think about how the countries hosting the most refugees are often the least able to cope.

Be sensitive to learners’ personal experiences when carrying out this activity, and see our guidance on creating a safe, inclusive and supportive learning environment.

This teaching resource is suitable for secondary school aged students (11 to 16).

Learning objectives

Learners will:

  • develop empathy for people making this difficult journey
  • increase their understanding of the reasons why people become migrants and refugees.
  • explore positive and negative responses towards refugees.

Resource overview

1. Discussion activity: The journey
Discuss the news story of people making the dangerous journey to the UK in small boats, and consider how they might feel before, during and after the journey. 

2. Role-play: Taking the risk
Learners imagine they are a group of migrants making the journey, imagine where they might be from, their reasons for making the journey, and their hopes for the future. 

3. Quiz: Migration in context
See how much learners know about migration in the UK and around the world with this engaging quiz. Do any of the answers surprise them?

4. Creative writing: A letter home
Learners imagine they are about to make the journey and write a letter home. What might they want to say to their loved ones about their plans and hopes for the future?


This resource was written by Nick Hunter and published in January 2019.

Image © piola666/iStock.