When working to promote a culture of welcome and inclusion in schools for students who are seeking sanctuary, it is important to begin from the very beginning – enrolling and inducting students into schools. For this reason, we encourage schools to review their admissions policies to ensure they meet the needs of students and families who are seeking sanctuary.
Some key considerations for admissions policies and procedures may include:
- Having a named Sanctuary Lead (who may also be the Pupil Premium Lead and/or Senco) to be the point-of-contact for all students from sanctuary-seeking backgrounds. This is helpful for both students and families but also external contacts (in the local authority or external organisations) to know who to contact and ensure all communications are passed through one person.
Admissions Meeting Procedure
- Leave plenty of time for the meeting and hold it in a welcoming and relaxed environment. This is an opportunity for parent/carers and students to become familiar with key people (such as the Sanctuary Lead), ask any questions they may have and also for schools to learn key information.
- Interpretation: whilst families may bring a friend who is bilingual to support, we always encourage not using another parent or a student if sensitive information will be shared and for admissions meetings strongly advise using professional interpretation for the meeting
- Sharing information: although translated information is useful, don’t expect all parent/carers to be literate in their first language. Photos and visuals (of the main entrance, the Sanctuary lead, uniform, packed lunch etc) is always helpful.
- Collecting information: an admissions meeting is the best opportunity to collect information that will be essential to ensure that the students’ needs are effectively met. This could include the language(s) spoken at home (and proficiency in language(s)), the student’s prior educational experiences, the family’s migratory journey, the student’s interests/ preferences and the subject or social areas in which they struggle. You can also use this opportunity to see if the family has resources to acquire all the key school items: school uniform, books, pencils etc. and learn more about their home situation and resources.
- Prepare to also signpost families to other services and sources of information: health, community groups, bus timetables, food banks, etc.
- Follow up the meeting with a tour of the school and a chance for the student to briefly meet some students in their class. Make sure to show them the key places: the reception, the toilets, the canteen and the Sanctuary Lead’s office/classroom. Wherever possible, help parents stay engaged with the school through regular coffee mornings, providing ESOL classes or offering a space in the school as a drop-in centre for caseworkers.
- Consider what information needs to be shared with which members of staff, being sensitive of students’ privacy.
- Identify a peer who will be the new students’ ‘buddy’ and be responsible for including them in the class, making sure they know where they are going and what they are doing and checking in on them.
- Maintain regular communication with home to quickly identify and ease any concerns of issues that arise in the first few days.
- Have a look at Kingston and Richmond LA’s advice for areas to cover in initial meetings and safeguarding checklist (highly recommended!): Welcoming new arrivals to the UK into schools
- We recommend reviewing the Bell Foundation’s induction programme framework.
Example Policy Documents
Liverpool’s School Improvement Team has generously shared their admissions policy document, including tips for using Google translate and a template for the information to be collected during the admissions meeting.