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Keighley school & college join forces to support sanctuary

In autumn 2023, a Keighley college and school in our sanctuary networks started working together to support each others’ efforts to raise awareness and build welcome in their settings and in their community.

Listening to the stories and experiences of those seeking sanctuary is an invaluable way to develop empathy, understanding and realise our shared humanity. Last term, students and staff from Keighley College (an awarded College of Sanctuary) and Eastwood Community School (working towards the accreditation) facilitated this by bringing together 24 young ESOL students from the college, most  who are seeking sanctuary, with staff and children from the primary school.

The children at Eastwood prepared questions starting with “if you don’t mind me asking…?” and the college students were carefully prepared for the sorts of questions that might be asked and understood they didn’t have to answer questions that made them uncomfortable. The children enjoyed hearing the students’ stories and asked questions ranging from why students came to the UK; their journeys and the countries they travelled through; what they liked about England and college; what they missed about their countries; and what they wanted to do for a living.

One student shared how he was kidnapped and forced to work in restaurants from the age of eight. Another student told them that at their age he only went to school in the morning because he had to  work afternoons and evenings shining shoes. “Eastwood Primary School is very different from my school in Afghanistan,” Zakir reflected. “We had to sit on the ground and didn’t have any pens and paper for free. When it rained, the water poured in.”

The students told the children that they were here without their families and missed them, especially their mums. “Appreciate your families,” one student advised. Another reflected, “if you  want something you have to work for it. I came here because it was safe and there are many  opportunities.” The students were shown around the school, joined in with break time and met some of the younger  pupils in nursery and pre-school. They joined in with singing, painting and art activities alongside the  children. “It was a very good experience for our students to see how education works in the UK. I  hope it will inspire some of our young students to go into teaching,” said one of the college teachers.

“I’ve made some new friends and I really hope they can join us again,” said one Year 6 pupil. A staff member at Eastwood also reflected: “for our pupils, the day highlighted the importance of being  kind, respectful and understanding. It was a great experience to see our pupils’ asking questions and  making connections.” The value of this project was outlined by a senior leader at Eastwood who emphasised they wanted their children “well-equipped to be active, compassionate citizens who can contribute to making the world a better place…meeting regularly with people from diverse backgrounds demonstrates our commitment to this endeavour.” 

Shortly after the initial meeting, 15 of the children visited the college and took part in a variety of activities. They also brought with them thank you cards that they had made. 

Keighley College and Eastwood Community school are planning to continue these meet-ups and this term they have planned cooking sessions where both groups will learn about each other’s cultural and culinary heritage: watch this space!