Four intrepid teachers from Birmingham Schools of Sanctuary, three researchers and the National Development Officer impressed delegates at the Open Schools for Open Societies international conference in Athens last weekend.
Birmingham City University researchers were involved in a project on integrating migrants into schools with colleagues in Hungary, Greece, Austria and Germany which resulted in new training materials to support schools. They found that Birmingham Schools of Sanctuary had the most to contribute and teachers were invited to share their knowledge and experience of welcome and inclusion. Delegates to the conference were impressed at the wonderful examples of good practice shared by the teachers* and were also able to learn about the City of Sanctuary network and it’s learn embed and share framework for Sanctuary Awards. These provide a useful strategic tool for building the movement for welcome and inclusion in the mainstream and schools provide an excellent example.
One of the many wonderful stories shared came from Halesowen College of Sanctuary whose staff made efforts to help integrate the ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages) students with the rest of the student body. They set up an ESOL football team which then challenged the successful college team to a match.
The match was delayed because College team members objected to the fact that the ESOL team included one young man wanting to play in bare feet. It was an exciting match and the ESOL team won earning respect, admiration and new supporters. Following this some of the ESOL students joined the College team and got to visit Liverpool FC. Further work across the college included a Cultural Calendar and the “Journey to College” project involving the making of paper chains to symbolise the miles travelled to reach College raised awareness. Students developed a new understanding and increased respect and support for their fellow students. As one said: “I never realized just how much these students have had to overcome and how traumatic their journeys were”.
This story reflects City of Sanctuary’s theory of change which has social contact theory at its heart. Bringing people together through shared interests such as football serve to break down barriers and dissolve fears and prejudices and enable new friendships and relationships of solidarity to flourish.
Teachers in Schools of Sanctuary are helping to break down the barriers between children and within and across communities through their work and thereby forging stronger communities willing to defend cohesion and stand up in solidarity for marginalised groups such as those seeking sanctuary.
We expect many Schools of Sanctuary pupils to grow up willing to stand up for justice and for a positive, humane and fair system for asylum. City of Sanctuary UK is proud of the growing number of Schools of Sanctuary who are contributing to building the movement for welcome in a myriad of small and large ways.
The new training materials can be found here.
*The teachers were Emma Johnson from Oasis Foundry, Denise McDonald form Somerville Primary, Francis Johnson from Erdington Academy and Jamie Green from Halesowen College. The researchers from BCU were Alex Kendall, Mary-Rose Puttick and Louise Wheatcroft.
If you know of any examples of good practice in Schools of Sanctuary, please contact Sara Trewhitt, SoS Lead. We are seeking case studies for the new Schools Resource pack. Contact sara/[email protected]