Citizens UK, the national community organising charity, and NASUWT, the Teachers’ Union, have joined forces to promote Refugee Welcome Schools, an accreditation scheme to recognise schools that have made a commitment to welcome refugees in their institution and community, educate all their pupils and staff about the importance of refugee protection over the course of a year, and participate in campaigns to improve the lives of refugees in the UK.
The first three schools have now accredited, and over the next six months more schools in London, Birmingham and Wales, where the scheme is being piloted, will complete the accreditation process.
Jonathan Cox, Deputy Director, Citizens UK, said: “Citizens UK has been calling for the UK government to play its part in resettling refugees from Syria, and welcome the most vulnerable since 2014. Our member institutions, including schools, have told us that they want to help; this scheme is a practical way to help support school communities as they prepare to welcome refugees.
“The UK’s response to the Syrian refugee crisis means that at least 20,000 refugees from that conflict will arrive here between now and 2020. Many will be resettled in communities that have never hosted refugees before. Every single resettled refugee will have a connection to a school, as only families are eligible for the Vulnerable Persons Relocation Programme. This means that schools become crucial places of welcome, orientation and integration for refugee families.”
Schools taking part in the scheme will each develop a Refugee Welcome Plan: to make sure those seeking sanctuary in their school and wider community experience a warm and generous welcome; a Refugee Awareness Plan: to educate their pupils, staff and community on the issue of refugees and the importance of providing a welcome; and a Refugee Action Plan: to participate in community campaigns that improve the lives of refugees in the UK.
The first three institutions to accredit are, Saint Gabriel’s College, Camberwell, South London; Leyton Sixth Form College, Waltham Forest, East London and Newman Catholic College, Brent, North London. They were supported to complete their applications by undergraduate students from UCL Institute of Education, who undertook placements in the schools to review existing refugee provision and develop new ideas and resources.
Stuart Tannock, Programme Leader, BA Education Studies, UCL Institute of Education said:
“Many of our students are passionate about social justice organising and education. Participating in the Refugee Welcome Schools project is an opportunity for our students to experience what social justice campaigns in the education sector can accomplish, learn first-hand about some of the excellent work that is already being done by local schools in supporting refugee children and their families, and also contribute their own ideas and energies in assisting schools develop new refugee education and organising projects in the coming year.”
Citizens UK developed the Refugee Welcome School concept with one of its member schools, Saint Gabriel’s College, a Church of England secondary school in South London in 2016, and have joined forces with the teachers’ union, the NASUWT to ensure the scheme can be rolled out effectively across the pilot areas, in advance of a national launch.