Guest blog: Working on the Refugee Welcome Schools Campaign with Citizens UK - Sanchita Choudhary
GUEST BLOG: WORKING ON THE REFUGEE WELCOME CAMPAIGN WITH CITIZENS UK
- SANCHITA CHOUDHARY
Migration is not new to Leicester; the arrival of Asian population of Uganda in August 1972 was a key moment in Leicester’s history. Since 1972, Leicester has continued to become the melting pot of cultures in the UK.
I work in Kingsway Primary School which is located at the border of Leicester city and county and in my last ten years of experience, the community around our school has changed significantly. We are welcoming more and more children from a wide range of ethnic backgrounds which is beginning to make our school a truly diverse place to be however the majority of children come from White British backgrounds. I am a migrant from India myself and I decided to come to Leicester due to the fact that I could feel a sense of belonging. My journey has had its ups and downs but my most memorable moments have been when I felt supported through the community networks. Therefore, in my role as a MAT wide community engagement leader I emphasise on mapping our communities and making relationships with key stakeholders in order for our schools to be the agency of and for our community.
Our MAT joined Citizens UK because we share the common values of standing up for social justice and bringing a systemic change in society. Therefore when the war broke out in Ukraine in February 2022, we decided to join the Refugee Welcome Campiagn with Citizens. Nobody was left unaffected, especially our students whom we teach in our primary and secondary schools. They were asking us questions about the reasons for his war and more importantly the repercussions of the brutal attack on the nationals of Ukraine. Sanchita Choudhary
The scale of the crisis became enormous in a matter of hours and therefore LiFE MAT decided to make a difference: however small it might be but a positive difference in the lives of our Ukrainian friends.
We joined hands with Leicester and Leicestershire Citizens and pledged to resettle at least 50 refugee families as possible through our networks.
Following on from this decision, the student ambassadors in all the schools of LiFE MAT alongside the community engagement leaders started listening to their communities to find out the perception and apprehension of the people as well as the support network available. Hundreds of student leaders across the eight MAT schools dedicated their time and energy into putting a detailed Welcome Plan together. They supported other local schools in the development of their plans as well as designed assemblies and activities to make Refugee Week on 20th June 2022.
At Kingsway Primary School, we decided to integrate this opportunity within our curriculum and adapt what we are teaching to reflect the wider picture.
The children embarked on their mission, “How can we become an even more welcoming school?”
Year 5-6 children studied a graphic novel ‘The Arrival’ by Shaun Tan in literacy. The Arrival is a migrant story told as a series of wordless images. The children discussed the journeys that the migrants sometimes have to make and how particularly dangerous they can be if you are fleeing your country to seek refuge. They took part in role play techniques like hot seating and freeze frames which helped them to empathise with the sanctuary seekers.
In design and technology, the children researched and designed bags to donate items to our local Ukrainian church. This included working with materials, textiles and equipment like needles and threads. They worked as a team to brainstorm positive words like ‘Hope’, ‘Confidence’, ‘Assurance’ and phrases such as ‘We are one family’ to sew on the bags!
In PSHE, the children considered similarities and differences between people and how to be respectful, kind, generous and be welcoming towards others. They created welcome guides and learned key greetings in Ukrainian.
It was an extremely proud moment for our MAT when all our eight schools received our accreditation of the 'Refugee Welcome School' status with Citizens UK and NASUWT.
We are in the process of organising a second information event for our Ukrainian guests following on from a very successful coffee evening which brought our communities together in an extraordinary way!
Find out how to get involved as a Refugee Welcome Schools