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The Schools of Sanctuary network sits within a wider community of organisations, institutions and individuals that share our vision that the UK should be a kinder, more compassionate place for those seeking safety.

As the centre of our communities, schools play a vital role in growing and strengthening these networks of welcome and together we can realise this vision.

The Schools of Sanctuary award scheme expects to see examples of schools playing their part in this, whether that is by providing support to those seeking safety in our communities and encouraging more people to support our vision of welcome [criterion 7], or supporting our Sanctuary Networks to flourish and achieve their full potential [criterion 8].

The Schools of Sanctuary programme also aims to foster ethically-informed children and young people who lead with kindness and compassion for all – especially those forced to flee their homes. When people seeking safety continue to be faced with so much hatred and cruelty it’s never been more important that we see beyond the headlines to the individual people, what they have experienced and the challenges they continue to face.

Kindness and compassion are not just feelings: they are actions. Enabling children to take part in activities to develop the relevant competencies are key to helping them develop as future young leaders who want to create positive change.

See below for some ways in which your school could get involved with collective actions.

Support charities for those seeking safety

Reach out to your local refugee organisation and ask how you can learn from and support them. This might be through fundraising or donations, but we’ve also seen children volunteer to tidy community gardens, help organise clothes donations or do work experience at their local charity, and we’ve seen schools offer access to the playing fields or halls at the weekends/ in the evenings so that the charity can offer sports or other activities to the people with whom they work.

In some areas, children, staff and parent/carers have also written welcome letters or collated welcome packs that the local charity has been able to distribute to the newest members of their communities.

Also look at ways to donate or fundraise for Schools of Sanctuary UK – everything we do is on a shoestring and every penny and pound donated means the world to our tiny team. With more interest than ever, we rely on the support of schools in our network to ensure the future of Schools of Sanctuary.

Collaborate with local institutions

Being a School of Sanctuary is about raising awareness about the realities of people who have been forced to seek safety in the UK and building compassion in our communities – in school and beyond. Working with other local institutions is a great way to reach people who might not otherwise be part of these discussions and efforts and inspire people with the kindness driven by the children in our schools.

Some collaborative ideas include:

  • For World Book Day, work with your local library to create a display or exhibition highlighting books by and about people seeking safety. Ask children (and staff!) to contribute artwork and book reviews, to encourage others to pick up your favourite sanctuary-related books and learn more.
  • At Christmas, collaborate with your local Church to explore the nativity as a story of seeking safety. Anne Booth’s ‘Refuge’ picture book is a great resource for primary aged children.

Build local knowledge

Help children, staff and the wider community learn about your local area’s connections to (forced) migration. Reach out to a local historical society, museum or university and see if you can develop a project to learn more about your local area’s history of welcoming people seeking safety. These histories are powerful reminders to everyone that people seeking sanctuary have long been welcomed to your local area and made it the place you call home today.

Lead with your values

Schools are the centre of our communities and have a powerful influence. When schools lead with their values they can shape the way entire communities approach welcome to new arrivals. Be proud of being a place that values everyone, respects difference and stands with the most unfortunate and explain how these activities benefit every child – by helping every child to feel seen, represented and understood and fostering kind, thoughtful and caring young people.

Use opportunities such as Refugee Week and religious holidays like Christmas, Easter, Eid and Diwali to share your pride in your values and activities with the wider community through shared activities, collaborations with local institutions like libraries, museums and faith settings and in your newsletters.