At a breakfast launch of the Refugee Welcome Schools initiative on Thursday 29th November, hosted by Grant Thornton LLP and Dentons LLP UKMEA, six MK schools committed themselves to achieving Refugee Welcome Schools accreditation. These included two mainstream secondary schools, two mainstream primary schools and two supplementary schools.
This initiative promotes and supports a new standard for the awareness, welcome and action, which a school pledges to undertake in support of refugee and other new students in their school.
40 people from 18 institutions attended the event, which was organised by Citizens:mk, in partnership with NASUWT, and co-chaired by Kurshida Mirza and Hala Afify, members of the Citizens:mk Leadership Group.
Cllr Martin Petchey, Mayor of Milton Keynes Council (pictured above), which has welcomed 16 Syrian refugee families to MK under the government’s VPRS scheme since 2015, opened the proceedings by referring to recent news of serious bullying of refugee pupils at a school outside Milton Keynes (read full story).
Testimonies were then heard (through volunteer interpreter Jamila Kaouri) from three Syrian mothers and one teenage daughter, who have recently settled in MK, about the traumatic conditions of school provision in Syria compared with the warm welcome and access to services provided by Milton Keynes.This was followed by three students from St. Paul’s Catholic School (pictured above) talking about why they feel compelled to campaign for a warm welcome from their school community.
Support worker Kerri Chana of British Red Cross (pictured above), and Hasnain Datoo and Shelina Meghji of Building Bridges MK (pictured below), then spoke about the importance of supporting refugees and asylum-seekers with English language translation and teaching.
Kerri said: “Our volunteers have a range of different roles. There are caseworkers, administrators, orientation project workers and English language teachers. They are all community members who are using the British Red Cross volunteering role to make a positive difference to the experience of newly arrived families.”
Fred Grindrod, Principal Official of NASUWT, a Refugees Welcome Partner (pictured above), spoke of the international movement to support refugee children and the importance to NASUWT of its partnership with Citizens UK.
Jess Maddocks of Citizens UK explained that the Refugee Welcome Schools accreditation process was straightforward, quoting from the experience of Saint Gabriel’s College in south London, and said she could be contacted for further information about it.
Then pledges were received from MK schools (main picture above) as follows:
- commitment Refugees Welcome Schools accreditation – Brooklands Farm Primary School (pledge received before the event), Jubilee Wood Primary School, St. Paul’s Catholic School, The Radcliffe School, Al Ajyad Supplementary School, Middle Eastern Language School (pledge received at the event of the event).
- commitment to discuss this at Senior Leadership Team meeting – Lord Grey School, MK College, Shenley Brook End School, Southwood Primary School (pledge received before the event).
Finally Tim Finch (pictured above), Director of the Sponsor Refugees project created by Citizens UK, and Paul Eedle (pictured below), Community Sponsorship Ambassador of Muswell Hill Methodist Church in North London, talked about the benefits of Community Sponsorship and how a school community might embrace this opportunity.
In post-action evaluation, the event was given a score 8/10, with praise for the turnout and criticism of directions about parking arrangements and lack of working microphone.