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A Student-Centered Approach to Becoming a School of Sanctuary

Springwater School, North Yorkshire

Springwater School is a small school for children aged two to nineteen, with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities. The community is vibrant and diverse and has recently welcomed some resettled refugees.

Children attending Springwater School require a modified curriculum to achieve their goals. Staff employ specialised approaches to promote physical, communication, and social development. For this reason, they adapted and differentiated the Learn/Embed/Share principles in order to make this piece of work accessible to our students.

Whole-school learning began by celebrating Refugee Week. As a school, they explored and shared a comprehensive picture book called ‘The Journey’ by Francesca Sanna. This book covered themes of displacement, why people become refugees and why refugees and asylum seekers need protection. Each student designed and created a piece of artwork featuring a bird to symbolising migration and freedom. These birds were displayed, as part of an exhibition of work. School assemblies, lessons and activities touched upon why refugees have joined the school community and why some refugees are destitute. For example, some classes made and designed suitcases and thought about the things that they would take if they were leaving their house in an emergency.

Embedding policies of welcome was straightforward for our school as we have worked on an ethos and environment that is inclusive for all over an extended period of time. Staff created a statement collaboratively as a whole school team, to express our perspective on welcome:


Springwater School is a space of sanctuary that recognises and values the diversity of our school community as a rich resource, which supports the learning of all. We are an inclusive setting and promote tolerance, understanding and equality for all regardless of age, disability, gender reassignment, race, religion or belief, sex, sexual orientation, marriage and civil partnership, and pregnancy or maternity.


This statement was then added to school policies and used as a springboard to learn about other equalities and protected characteristics.

Creating displays that celebrate diversity, developing a welcome board, purchasing books and toys that reflect the children’s home languages helped the school to enhance the inclusivity of its physical and visual environment.


Staff invited a member of the local Minority Ethnic Achievement Team to support them to assess and develop our practices for those with English as an Additional Language. As an action from this, they adapted our welcome pack to make it visual and more straight forward to interpret.

Over-time the pupils have discussed feeling safe and places that make us feel safe. They have requested and developed a range of clubs including, ‘Singing and Signing Club’ and ‘World Issues Club’ where language development and a desire to make the world a better place have been encouraged.

The Share part of the school’s journey has included: an exhibition of artwork around places of sanctuary, opening the school up to be a café for the local community one morning a week and sharing the process of becoming a School of Sanctuary at network meetings and with other schools.

The school reflected on its journey and says: ‘As a school, we are proud of our community and our status as a School of Sanctuary.’