As the centre of our communities, schools can play a central role in welcoming their newest members.
Wood Ley Primary School – the very first School of Sanctuary in Suffolk – is a fantastic model of how schools can do this in meaningful and practical ways.
Despite having no students from sanctuary-seeking backgrounds, in their application, Wood Ley outlined the myriad of ways they have sought to stand in solidarity with those seeking sanctuary who have arrived in their local area.
In the past school year, students have written letters of welcome to Afghan families who have been settled in the local area where they explained what they liked best about Suffolk and wishing them a happy future there, and students’ families have helped to compile care packages, such as sewing kits to keep those housed in contingency hotels comfortable and entertained.
During the appraisal meeting, one student explained how, having learnt so much about refugees in the past school year, when she had heard about the war in Ukraine and Homes for Ukraine scheme, she had pitched the idea of hosting a family in their house to her parents, explaining why this was the right thing to do – and they agreed.
The school’s Sanctuary Lead, Jasmine Kay, also explained that having developed so much awareness and led so many activities in support of people seeking sanctuary in school the impact has spread beyond the student body, with parents now opting to volunteer with the local refugee organisation in their spare time.
In the final weeks of the summer term, Wood Ley students designed welcome posters and then asked local businesses to display them around Stowmarket to create visual displays of support for people seeking safety and help to engage more people in building a culture of welcome, beyond the school gates.
Moving forward, Wood Ley wants to offer school spaces (such as the hall and playing fields) to the local refugee support organisation so that they can run classes and activities in the school holidays and in the evenings. They are also looking at ways they can offer work experience, which might include opportunities to do relevant training courses, to those seeking safety to help them get their foot on the work ladder once they are ready to do so.
Want to learn more about how Wood Ley became a School of Sanctuary? Have a look at their application.