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.
- Sharing information: although translated information is useful, don’t expect 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 a great opportunity to collect information that will be useful to effectively meeting the needs of the student. This could include the language(s) spoken at home (and proficiency in language(s)), the students’ prior educational experiences, the family’s migratory journey, the students’ interests/ preferences and the 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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.