As refugee week drew to a close (June 15-21) we were delighted to hear from one of Ripon’s Schools of Sanctuary about the work children there have been doing.
Outwood Primary Academy Greystone was awarded School of Sanctuary status in March 2018, for its commitment to being a welcoming place for all – especially those seeking sanctuary.
Academy Principal and Ripon Cathedral Children’s Church teacher Victoria Kirkman said: “We felt it imperative to celebrate this year, mindful of the fact that many families may be facing hardships due to COVID-19. Being a School of Sanctuary meant that we wanted to reach out and highlight the important issues facing asylum seeking and refugee families – both with children in school at this time and those at home.
“Families were able to join in with daily activities on class social media pages and we also sent out links to parents and carers to help them celebrate the contributions, creativity and resilience of refugees.”
Each day, the activities focused on key themes such as ‘Warm Welcome’; ‘Fear and Friendship’; ‘Belonging and Being a Team’; ‘Reflection and Rejoicing’ and ‘Future and Moving Forward’. In one activity pupils drew maps of Ripon to show a refugee child around the local area while Miss Kirkman led a virtual assembly reading poems written by refugee children and playing team games in class bubbles to highlight how challenging things become when you don’t know the rules or the language.
Ripon has a long history of sanctuary dating back to 937 when King Athelstan created a ring of sanctuary around Ripon with the cathedral at its centre. Today the cathedral’s partner charity Ripon City of Sanctuary works to help promote a culture of welcome for asylum seekers and refugees as well as supporting refugees locally, regionally and nationally.
Yvonne Jefferies of the Cathedral Community Connections group C3 has been supporting local schools working towards School of Sanctuary status – she explained: “Outwood Academy Greystone was awarded Primary School of Sanctuary status in recognition of its commitment and work understanding issues facing Refugees and Asylum seekers, offering support and becoming a welcoming place for all by the celebration of values of Friendship, Belonging and Welcome to all. Schools of Sanctuary work towards building a generation of children that understand asylum issues.
“Staff and pupils have continued this focus as is in evidence with their celebration of Refugee Week; their work demonstrates the joy and connection brought about when learning about lives transformed by acts of kindness, sharing what unites us, looking at friendship over fear and valuing everyone. Often with this work we start out genuinely wishing to relieve the suffering of refugees and asylum seekers, even in a small ways but then discover our lives are greatly enriched by these encounters.”
Miss Kirkman added: “Refugee Week was a huge success and I continue to be incredibly proud of the whole school community. Outwood Primary Academy Greystone continues to be a setting where difference is celebrated, respect is mutual and where ALL feel safe and secure.”