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Become a School of Sanctuary

How can my school become a School of Sanctuary?

An accredited School of Sanctuary is one that has received recognition from City of Sanctuary UK or a partner organisation in the form of a Sanctuary Award for its good practice in fostering a culture of welcome and inclusion.

To be eligible for the award, schools must demonstrate that they have implemented three key principles:

  1. LEARN Schools help their students, staff and wider community learn about what it means to be seeking sanctuary and the issues surrounding forced migration.
  2. EMBED Schools are committed to creating a safe and inclusive culture of welcome that benefits everybody, including anyone in their community seeking sanctuary.
  3. SHARE Schools share their values and activities with their local communities.

To support schools to achieve the three principles, we have developed a set of minimum criteria which have been structured to fit into the three overarching principles of ‘Learn, Embed, and Share’, which are used for all sanctuary awards.

See here for a simplified summary of these steps.


  • Training and education opportunities are provided for school staff and management on refugee, asylum and forced migration issues.
  • Evidence of refugee/asylum/migration learning activities are included into school life and at least one example in the curriculum, across the key stages.


  • The school must demonstrate how they will continue to develop and sustain a culture of welcome beyond the award. Ideally this should be linked to the school’s improvement /development plan and made clear in policy documents and induction processes.
  • Recognition of and participation in the annual Refugee Week or other regular celebratory events which highlight the contribution of refugees and migrants to the UK. More information about the annual event can be found here
  • Commitment to supporting age-appropriate active pupil voice on sanctuary and welcome/welcoming activities in the school. For example, this might mean ensuring that your School Council or other student-led groups are actively involved in the process of working towards recognition.


  • A public commitment to the City of Sanctuary vision of welcome, including the endorsement of the City of Sanctuary charter which can be done via signing the City of Sanctuary organisation pledge. This pledge should be included on the school’s website and in a public space in the school. Some local City of Sanctuary groups have their own pledge and therefore Schools would be encouraged to sign these pledges if appropriate.
  • The school publicly highlights its activities in support of welcome and inclusion. This can include social media/website posts, school newsletter updates or attending regional activities or meetings.NB. Once a school has achieved a sanctuary award, we expect schools to include the Schools of Sanctuary logo and a link to the Schools of Sanctuary web page on their website.
  • Commitment to on-going engagement with the Schools of Sanctuary stream. This may include sharing resources, ideas and achievements via the school’s website or the national City of Sanctuary website, and/or with other local/regional schools.

City of Sanctuary recognises that schools vary widely in their contexts and capacities, and there is no expectation that every School of Sanctuary will follow the exact same path. The criteria have been developed to ensure the credibility and standardisation of the award, but hopefully with enough flexibility for schools to be able to devise their own unique pathway.

Starting to become a School of Sanctuary

What do you have in place already?

Consider your School Development Plan:

  • Do you currently have any elements of promoting welcome and inclusion in it?
  • Undertake an audit using our provided tool — or develop your own review with the support of the local CoS group or SoS coordinator.
  • Reflect on what your school does currently to welcome new pupils, staff, families and visitors to the school, and how do you support an ethos of inclusivity?
  • How do you use the national curriculum to support and learn about sanctuary?

How will you be supported by City of Sanctuary UK?

To help you on your journey to become a School of Sanctuary, we are able to:

  • Connect you to the nearest City of Sanctuary group and/or School of Sanctuary. They may be able to mentor your school and provide you with valuable support and ideas or invite you to participate in collaborative art projects or events/opportunities organised locally.
  • Link to the national network of Schools of Sanctuary. If you do not have a local group there are lots of further ideas and support tools on the Schools of Sanctuary website where you’ll find a wealth of links to useful lesson plans and resources for all age groups.
  • Share examples of good practice and showcase your own brilliant work across our communications and social media.
  • Provide you with opportunities to join national campaigns of support for people seeking sanctuary.
  • Send invitations to join on-line training, webinars and support sessions, and national and/regional gatherings.
  • Send our termly Schools of Sanctuary newsletter- sign up here
  • Share information and best practice via our JISC email listserv.
  • Distribute monthly CoS UK national newsletters on current developments in the sector and provide ideas for up to date learning in schools.

How long does it take to become a School of Sanctuary?

Every school is different and the journey to becoming a School of Sanctuary is unique — so there is no standard or expected length of time to complete the process. Some schools may have already met many of the criteria and may only need to document their efforts and share their work with CoS for recognition. Other schools may have significant learning to do about sanctuary issues and may need more time to embed.

In general, we suggest that schools commit to spending a full academic year completing the process. Often setting a target award date – such as an award recognition in the annual June Refugee Week helps create momentum.

Steps to Becoming a School of Sanctuary