This protocol was developed in accordance with the Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis Protocols (PRISMA-P) guidelines  (see Additional file 1) and is registered on PROSPERO, an international register of systematic reviews . Any changes to the protocol will be recorded on PROSPERO. The review can be described using the PICOS(S) outline (population, intervention, comparator, outcome, study design, and setting).
The population of interest will comprise school students who are first-generation refugees or asylum seekers resettled in any host country. For the purposes of this review and in line with the 1951 United Nations Convention and 1967 Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees, a refugee is defined as an individual who was forced to flee their country ‘owing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted’, and whose claim has been verified by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR); an asylum seeker is an individual seeking protection as a refugee, but whose claim has not yet been assessed . This review will not include studies of non-refugee immigrants or samples of internally displaced populations. Studies of students from the general school population will be included, provided outcomes are reported separately for students from refugee backgrounds. The mean age for participants in the sample must be 21 years or younger. Whilst this review will not consider studies of higher education students (i.e. university or college), this broader age range is employed to account for delays in grade progression experienced by many refugee students, given language, or other barriers.
This review will be concerned with research that describes or measures any element of the school climate. School climate factors include any item that measures a key factor associated with school experience, for example institutional norms, values, expectations, approaches to diversity, bullying, or relationships between peers or teachers. Specific pedagogical strategies or learning content will not be assessed.
As this study is predominantly focused on aspects of the school climate in general, and not the outcomes of specific interventions, the study need not have a control group for inclusion in the review. If incorporated into the study, comparison groups of refugees, asylum seekers, displaced persons, migrants, native-born, or general student populations will be admissible.
This review will collect data across two outcome themes. The primary outcomes are the mental health and wellbeing of refugee students as assessed by systematic measure such as self-report, family member, clinician, school staff, or routine data. These outcomes could include, but are not limited to, mental disorders, subjective wellbeing, or psychosocial adjustment. The secondary themes are resettlement outcomes, as assessed by self-report, family member, clinician, school staff, or routine data. These outcomes could include, but are not restricted to, social connectedness, social capital, family relationships, identity, acculturation, educational attainment, or attendance outcomes.
This review will be a systematic mixed studies review which integrates quantitative, qualitative, and mixed methods studies, and as such all methodologically sound designs will be eligible for inclusion. Multicomponent studies are acceptable, provided they examine at least one factor of school climate and its relationship to wellbeing or resettlement outcomes for refugee students. As previously stated, this review seeks to consider more broadly the effects of the school milieu, that is, substantive concrete factors in the school context over which schools have an element of control. As such, studies where the primary aim was to evaluate outcomes of an intervention, such as cognitive-behavioural interventions set in the school, will be excluded; synthesis of this work has been completed elsewhere. All relevant studies will be assessed regardless of publication type (e.g. journal article, conference publications), country of study, or publication language; however, only those meeting all inclusion criteria will be included. In line with the Centre for Reviews and Dissemination for systematic reviews , all non-English language papers will be identified. In the first instance, Google Translate will be used to determine whether the subject area is aligned with our question, and if so, then we will seek more formal translation. Whilst Google translations may result in errors of content and meaning, the importance of including non-English language papers is evident given the international scope of refugee research.
For inclusion, studies must be conducted in a formal school setting in the refugees’ resettlement or transition country, from kindergarten to high school. Studies set in refugee camp schools will be excluded, as a comparison across these two different settings would complicate interpretation of findings. We anticipate that excluding refugee camp settings will result in an analysis of studies predominantly from middle- and high-income countries. However, there are no formal eligibility criteria excluding specific countries of resettlement.
Special education streams targeting refugee children (for example Intensive English Centres) will be included; however, studies that assess adult education or vocational training will be excluded. Although these education routes are viable options for some students, this review aims to compare studies across traditional primary and secondary school settings where the majority of refugee children will first be placed upon resettlement.
Studies will be identified through the following methods:
Electronic databases from medicine, science, and education were selected in order to find studies across all relevant disciplines. The following databases will be systematically searched (see the ‘Search Strategy’ section):
MEDLINE (via Ovid)
PsycINFO (via Ovid)
EMBASE (via Ovid)
Cumulative Index to Nursing and Allied Health Literature (CINAHL) (via EBSCOhost)
Web of Science Core Collection
Education Resources Information Centre (ERIC) (via ProQuest)
A systematic approach to grey literature searches will be adopted, guided by methods outlined by Godin and colleagues (2015). Firstly, two electronic databases will be searched (TRIP Database and Open Grey) using strategies developed for the electronic databases. Second, specific relevant websites will be hand-searched: UNHCR, World Health Organisation, Save the Children, and the Refugee Studies Centre – Oxford University. Third, we will conduct Google searches for documents published on the internet. Three searches will be conducted, restricting results to sites that end in ‘.gov’, ‘.org’, or ‘.edu’. In line with Godin and colleagues (2015), the first ten pages of each search’s hits (100 results) will be reviewed, using the title and short text underneath. The limit of ten pages will capture the most relevant hits due to Google’s relevance ranking algorithms.
Citation searching: backward and forward citation searches will be completed for included studies. Citation lists of included studies will be checked, as will citation lists of papers citing included studies.
Expert consultation: key experts in the field of refugee health and education, as identified by the investigators, will be consulted to identify other items for possible inclusion in the systematic review.
The MEDLINE search strategy was developed through consultation with a research librarian who has expertise in systematic review searching, using an iterative process of preliminary searches, testing search terms and incorporating new search terms as relevant papers are identified. Databases will be searched using date restrictions (1960–2017, or from inception to 2017 for those established later than 1960) and searching titles, abstracts, as well as mapping subject headings specific to each platform. No language or study design limits will be imposed on the search.
Search terms are broad and simple in order to capture all potentially relevant studies. Terms are grouped according to three core concepts: refugee terms (e.g. refugee, asylum seeker, displaced person), school terms (e.g. school, education, student), and child terms (e.g. child, adolescent). Our review outcomes are broad, thus terms specifically relating to outcome factors are not included in the search. This seems almost counterintuitive, but the reasoning is that including less search terms (i.e. no outcome factors) will result in more inclusive search results, in that all studies that relate to refugee children and schools will be returned. This approach was confirmed through extensive piloting of the search term groupings.
Some databases offer limits regarding age groups (for example Medline searches can be limited to 0–18 years). However, the decision was made to narrow by age using word search terms, not limits. This strategy is informed by guidance that databases inconsistently index these age limits and that not all databases include functionality to limit based on age groupings.
Once the MEDLINE strategy was finalised, the strategy was adjusted to the subject headings, syntax, and operating systems of the other databases. See Additional file 2 for the master search strategy for MEDLINE.
Literature search results will be collated in reference management software Endnote X8 and duplicate citations will be removed electronically.
Once search results are collated, two researchers will independently screen the titles and abstracts to determine whether a study meets the general inclusion criteria. Each article will be rated as include, exclude, or unclear. The full text of all articles classified as include or unclear will be retrieved for formal review. Next, two reviewers will independently assess the full text of each study according to the predetermined inclusion criteria. If necessary, researchers will seek additional information from study authors to resolve any concerns about eligibility. Disagreements will be resolved by discussion between the two reviewers or (when unable to be resolved) third author adjudication. Reasons for excluding studies will be recorded. Review authors will not be blind to the journal titles, nor authorship information of the studies.
Study data will be extracted using standard forms developed based on the Cochrane Effective Practice and Organisation of Care Review Group. Data items to be extracted include study design, study population (e.g. gender, age, country of origin, host country, duration in country, how identified for the study), number of participants, age of participants, gender, school climate factor assessed, outcome measures/informants, language spoken by participants, language study conducted in, comparison group, study site (e.g. primary/secondary school, Intensive English Centre), and study findings. Extraction will be conducted by two researchers. Data extraction forms will first be piloted and amended as necessary. Then, each reviewer will perform extraction on half the included studies, then will review the data extracted by the other reviewer on the second half of the articles. As such, each will complete either initial data extraction or review of data extraction on all included studies.
Quality of individual studies
Two researchers will independently assess the methodological quality of included studies using the Mixed Methods Appraisal Tool (MMAT) for mixed studies reviews . This tool appraises three methodological domains: mixed method, qualitative, and quantitative (further divided into sub-domains: randomised controlled, non-randomised, and descriptive). Each study will be appraised using the relevant domain criteria, and these scores will then be converted to percentages for comparison across domains, where a low percentage indicates low methodological quality and 100% indicates high quality in that all criteria were met. Disagreements will be resolved through discussion between the two reviewers or, when unable to be resolved, third author adjudication.
Due to the anticipated methodological heterogeneity of research included in this mixed studies review, quantitative synthesis or meta-analyses will not be possible. In order to appropriately compare the diversity of findings, a convergent qualitative synthesis will be performed . Results from studies that include quantitative, qualitative, and mixed method design will be transformed into qualitative findings such as themes and concepts, and a narrative approach will be used to synthesise these results in relation to the outcomes of interest.
The narrative synthesis will explore the findings within and between each included study as they pertain to the mental health, emotional wellbeing, and resettlement outcomes for participants. An overall assessment of the robustness of the evidence will be ascertained using weightings from the quality appraisals; the strength of evidence for each main outcome variable will be synthesised and presented as key recommendations for policy and practice and to inform future inquiry.