‘The Boy at the Back of the Class’ by Onjali Q Rauf


Curriculum Overview 

This package provides all the material needed to deliver a learning programme on the plight of refugees

 Introduction to the book

The Boy at the Back of the Class  by  Onjali Q Rauf.

The following review from the National Book Trust of Scotland sums up this book very effectively:

''This is the story about how one ordinary nine-year-old child and three classmates are full of empathy for Ahmet, a boy that comes to their school as a refugee from Syria (he is the boy at the back of the class).

Through their sensitivity, curiosity, ingenuity, bravery and innocent niceness, they make a massive impact of Ahmet’s life, friends, class, school, community and wider world.

There’s a lovely lack of stereotyping on gender and backstory for the narrator, which adds to the message of not judging people before you know them.

An inspiring and sweet tale that will help children think about what it is to be a good person whatever your circumstances (the narrator is from a poor background with a single parent mum who struggles to make ends meet), and challenge prejudice and push for fairness, whenever possible.

This is a beautiful, open-hearted debut from Onjali Q Raúf that should help children be the best they can be and realise the power of kindness. ''       

National Book Trust of Scotland

  1. Introduction
  2. Themes
  3. Lesson Plans, incorporating aims, themes, skills and resources - see "Lesson Plans" below
  4. Experiences and Outcomes for Early Years at level 0 and 1 for all activities
  5. Activity sheets for all learning activities and extension work 1 -8


The Boy at the Back of the Class focuses on exploring many themes. This learning programme focuses on the following:

•    Being New

•    Prejudice

•    Bullying

•    Plight of Refugees

•    Friendship

•    Kindness

•    Celebrating Difference

•    Power of the Media

•    Success

Many other themes are explored throughout the book, amongst them relationships, stereotyping, transitions, problem solving, feelings, justice and fairness, being different, inclusion, bravery, sticking up for yourself and others, sensitivity, gender stereotyping. There are identified in each activity as discussion points.

The themes identified above are explored throughout the book. However, for the sake of easier access if you are reading the book with the class and wish to use the activities as you proceed, each chronological 3 chapter section of the book has been linked with the most prominent focus theme. In addition, we have identified other issues that are within these chapters and which can be used as discussion points.

Being New -  1,2,3

1. The Empty Chair
2. The Boy with the Lion Eyes
3. Forty Winks

Prejudice - 4,5,6

4. What Mr Brown and Mrs Grimsby Said
5. The Refugee Kit
6. The Woman in the Silver Scarf

Bullying - 7,8,9

7. Mr Irons' Nose
8. The Unexpected Adventure
9. The Big Fight

Refugees - 10,11,12

10. War and Missing pieces
11. The Game of Scrabble
12. Syrah and the Sea

Friendship -13,14,15

13. The Something that Changed
14. The Three Plans
15. The Greatest Idea in the World

Kindness - 16,17,18

16. The Royal Letter
17. The Emergency Plan
18. Stan the Taxi Man

Diversity – 19,20,21

19. The Queen's Palace
20. The Cold Stream Guards
21. The Neighbours and the News

Power of the Media - 22,23,24

22. World Wide Whispers
23. Brendan-the-Bully and the
Breaking News
24. The Interview

Success - 25,26

25. The Queen's Message
26. The Present

  Learning Aims & Objectives

The following aims and objectives apply to the complete primary and secondary education programme  

  • To raise awareness of the refugee crisis by:
    • Exploring how global events can impact on the lives of individuals
    • Examining the journeys faced by refugees in pursuit of safety
    • Reviewing the myths surrounding the refugee crisis  
  • To develop empathy towards the plight of refugees by:
    • Giving children the opportunity to take on the roles of young refugees
    • Exploring feelings and sensory responses to imagined situations
    • Examine ways in which the worlds of the refugees and the children are both similar and different  
  • To promote the successful integration of refugees in the community by:
    • Providing activities which heighten awareness of social responsibility
    • Promote acceptance and celebration of diversity of culture in our community
    • Considering the lives of refugees in their new communities  


In addition, all the Experiences and Outcomes of the learning experiences are identified for each activity.
The CfE four capacities, identified below, are also embedded in the learning:  

  • Successful Learners
  • Effective Contributors
  • Confident Individuals
  • Responsible Citizens


The learning  activities are designed to be used chronologically, building up a detailed understanding of the story narrative and the identified related themes.  Each of the 8 activities covers a three chapter section of the book and deals with one or more of the themes, one or more of the skills and Curriculum Excellence Experiences and Outcomes.

At the beginning and the end of each lesson there are two activities common throughout:

  • At the start, creating still images of the title of each chapter explored in that lesson. The title is the stimulus. They can be used as a warm-up for each lesson and to help remind the pupils of the work covered so far.
  • At the end, deciding on the take-away message of the work covered in the lesson.

These will feed into further work in summarising and reflecting on the novel and what was achieved and learned


There is an opportunity for many life-long skills and values to be developed throughout these activities -  gratitude, respect, equality, sharing, working together, listening, imaginative responses, literacy – and many others. In addition, skills related to creativity and the expressive arts are also developed in each lesson.


Over half of the world’s refugees are children. Many will spend their entire childhoods away from home, sometimes separated from their families.

UNHCR, 2020

Detailed Lesson Outlines

Extension, Experiences and Outcomes

Experiences and Outcomes for Early Years at level 0 and 1 for all activities