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What is a School of Sanctuary?

A School of Sanctuary:

  • Is a place that fosters a culture of welcome and safety for people seeking sanctuary, including asylum seeking and refugee families.

  • Educates the whole school community about the human right to sanctuary and identifies practical means for schools to demonstrate that commitment.

  • Builds empathy and intercultural awareness through promoting the voices and contributions of people seeking sanctuary, encouraging an understanding of the experiences of displaced people and helping to combat stereotypes.

Why become a School of Sanctuary?

"It really lowers your confidence when someone is not being nice to you, like you think, what have I done? Why is he [a teacher] not being nice to me? ...it makes you worry as well, like, why I’m not getting treated the same way as others"
Jay, 18
Palestinian Refugee

Schools play a crucial role in helping young people to make sense of the world, to become responsible citizens and to create positive change in their communities. As of June 2020, there were 26 million refugees in the world according the UNHCR, approximately half of whom were children, with climate change increasingly driving the forced displacement of people.

The UK offered protection to 19,480 people in the year ending September 2019, up by more than a quarter on the previous year, and nearly 20,000 people (mainly Syrians) have been resettled since 2014 through the Vulnerable Person Resettlement Scheme.

Schools are often at the forefront of receiving and supporting those forcibly displaced – for example, nearly a quarter of asylum seekers in the year ending September 2019 were under 18. Young people in the UK need not only to learn about these issues but where possible meet people face-to-face who have lived experience of displacement in order to understand both their local communities and the wider world better.

Working towards becoming a School of Sanctuary also provides schools with a powerful focus for possible development in areas such as:

  • Meeting the requirements of the Equality Act 2010

  • Imaginative re-engagement with required curriculum areas such literacy, language arts, geography, history, humanities

  • Social, Moral, Spiritual and Cultural education and ‘British Values’

  • Building a school culture that reduces intolerance, hate speech and bullying

  • Building an inclusive and supportive school community

  • Increasing pupil voice and promoting active & engaged citizenship

  • Engaging families and strengthening the school’s role in the local community

  • Improving the provision of English as an additional language in school

  • Helping improve pupil outcomes and attendance – students that feel safe and included will be more likely to attend schools

  • Promoting well-being & community cohesion by building empathetic school environments

About City of Sanctuary UK

Become a School of Sanctuary

"They are your family, they are part of the human family, they are identical to your children, your parents, your daughters, your sons. Never forget them.”
Mandy Pantinkin
International Rescue Committee Ambassador