A Wolverhampton school has demonstrated that it is a safe and welcoming place for all by becoming Wolverhampton's first School of Sanctuary.
West Park Primary School received the accolade from the national City of Sanctuary movement after showing that it extends a warm welcome to everyone, and that its students, staff and the wider school community understand what it means to be seeking sanctuary.
The award came about after the school invited the Revd Dr Inderjit Bhogal OBE, founder and president of City of Sanctuary, to West Park Primary last year to be involved in a project on the school’s history, on the same day that a number of refugees and asylum seekers also visited to share their stories with pupils. As a result, pupils and teachers decided unanimously to work towards becoming a School of Sanctuary.
To receive the accreditation, the school had to provide evidence of the excellent work it does with parents and the local community, and in particular around helping newly-arrived families, refugees and asylum seekers integrate into their new community. It also trains pupils as young interpreters who help welcome and settle newly arrived children into their school.
Its application was approved by Schools of Sanctuary National Development Officer Colleen Molloy. She said: "I endorsed West Park Primary wholeheartedly as a School of Sanctuary as it has shown enormous commitment and embedded in its curriculum and practice significant steps to include and engage asylum seeker families and the entire school body in awareness and support.
"The school sets an excellent example for others to follow and I congratulate the head, her staff and pupils for their achievements."
Headteacher Briony Jones said: "I am very proud of our children whose learning about racism and the history of immigration into the area inspired them to want the school to be recognised as a place of sanctuary.
"They now have a better understanding of what it truly means to respect another human being, and have enormous empathy for the experiences of people across the globe. They can now spread this message far and wide.”
Lisa Harrison, a creative practitioner and governor at West Park, said: "Much of the school’s Sanctuary-related work has been developing over many years.
“Applying for School of Sanctuary status gave us the chance to take stock and look at what we were already doing, what we could do better and how we can share and celebrate what we do with the wider community."
The award was presented to the school at a special assembly last month attended by representatives from the Wolverhampton City of Sanctuary Group, the Refugee and Migrant Council, Humans of Wolverhampton, Women of Wolverhampton, local faith organisations and councillors.
Presenting the award, Dr Bhogal OBE said: "This school community is something for the whole of Wolverhampton to be proud of. You truly are leaders – now you’ve got to go out and shout about this because this is the kind of world we want to live in, isn’t it? A world in which everyone belongs equally, feels welcome, can have hospitality and feels safe.”
Councillor Claire Darke, the City of Wolverhampton Council’s Cabinet Member for Education, said: “I am delighted that West Park Primary School has become a School of Sanctuary and I hope that other schools in our City are inspired to apply for this status.”
A School of Sanctuary is a school that is committed to being a safe and welcoming place for all, especially those seeking sanctuary. This could be people whose lives were in danger in their own country, who have troubles at home or are just looking for a space of safety.
It is also a school which helps its students, staff and wider community understand what it means to be seeking sanctuary and to extend a welcome to everyone as equal, valued members of the school community. It is a school that is proud to be a place of safety and inclusion for all.
Schools of Sanctuary is part of the City of Sanctuary Network, a movement spread throughout the United Kingdom and Republic of Ireland, committed to building a culture of hospitality and welcome, especially for refugees seeking sanctuary from war and persecution. For more information, please visit https://cityofsanctuary.org/.