Pupils, staff and parents at Kingsland Church of England Primary School in Herefordshire proudly celebrated becoming the first local school to be credited as a School of Sanctuary. This status recognises the school’s unwavering commitment to fostering a culture of warmth, welcome, and inclusion for refugees and individuals seeking asylum.
Last year, the school welcomed two Ukrainian refugees into its community. Stewart Debenham, Headteacher explains: “Their presence not only enriched our lives but also opened the eyes of our children to the realities faced by refugees.
“The experience ignited a fire within our students, motivating them to extend their help and support to those in need.”
For the teachers at the school, the heart of the mission lies in the powerful tool of using education – helping to shape young minds and nurture global understanding. Staff worked alongside community volunteers to diligently educate children about the significance of helping those in need, fostering empathy and kindness as part of the school ethos and values.
A Year 6 pupil, Ada expressed that she enjoyed learning about individuals seeking sanctuary. “We took part in an activity where we had to decide which five items we would choose if given only five minutes to pack our belongings. This exercise helped us empathise with people facing similar situations”. Perry, a Year 5 pupil, said that “learning about the terms used for refugees and asylum seekers was interesting. They highlighted that we are all humans.”
School of Sanctuary is an award given by the City of Sanctuary. Schools are encouraged to sign a pledge and then are supported through a series of steps by an accredited Local Lead or the Schools of Sanctuary Team at City of Sanctuary UK. The status has been awarded to only 400 primary and secondary schools, nurseries and sixth forms across the UK. All are committed to creating a culture of welcome and inclusion for refugees and people seeking asylum.
Kingsland is the first school in the diocese and county of Herefordshire to receive this official status.
Stewart adds: “One of our recent endeavors involved a whole-school project during Refugee Week, where our students passionately created artwork inspired by the theme of compassion. This initiative allowed them to channel their creativity and empathy into meaningful expressions that underscore the importance of unity and support for refugees.”
The efforts didn't stop and through the determination, commitment and hard work of deputy headteacher Fiona Williams, the project seeks to build on this success. She reports: “The school are currently working to support other schools in the area to achieve the Schools of Sanctuary status and have launched a poster competition for the Herefordshire School of Sanctuary program. Working with diocesan lead Lesley Grady, Ukrainian Support Officer, is helping us think about how we support refugees in Leominster. Pupils have sent welcome cards to greet the new arrivals and we are now looking at what types of items the people require. We plan to launch an outreach campaign to our school community for this support.”
Stewart sums up the experience: “We hope to continue to shine as a beacon of hope and inclusion for refugees and asylum seekers, making a lasting impact on their lives and a difference in our own.”