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York Schools of Sanctuary

Schools of Sanctuary is a growing network of more than 350 primary and secondary schools all committed to supporting the thousands of young people seeking sanctuary in the UK, creating a culture of welcome, and raising awareness of the issues faced by refugees and asylum seekers. At least 22 schools in Leeds, Harrogate, Bradford, Ripon, Sheffield and Skipton have all had their amazing work recognised with a Schools of Sanctuary Award – read more here.

York has been a City of Sanctuary since 2016 and is proud to have a University of Sanctuary, Shops of Sanctuary, the Welcome to York programme, and outreach programmes including the Compass Project and others. The newly-established York Schools of Sanctuary project has begun working with several local schools to help them achieve the nationally recognised Schools of Sanctuary Award. If you are a York school or college and are interested in learning more, please don’t hesitate to get in touch by email: [email protected]

There is also a website and a Resource Pack to inspire and guide you. These share and celebrate the amazing work going on in schools around the country and provide plenty of practical tips to get you up and running, whether you are a teacher, school leader, support worker, or governor. In many cases schools find that they are already doing many things that count towards the award.

More information

Schools of Sanctuary:

  • foster a culture of welcome and safety for people seeking sanctuary, including asylum seeking and refugee families;
  • educate the whole school community about the human right to sanctuary and identify practical means for schools to demonstrate that commitment;
  • build empathy and intercultural awareness through: promoting the voices and contributions to society of people who have either sought or who are seeking sanctuary; building understanding of the experiences of displaced people; and helping combat stereotypes about refugees and asylum seekers – even where there might not be people from refugee backgrounds in the school.

Why become a School of Sanctuary?

“They are your family, they are part of the human family, they are identical to your children, your parents, your daughters, your sons. Never forget them.”  IRC Ambassador Mandy Pantinkin
“It really lowers your confidence when someone is not being nice to you, like you think, what have I done? Why is he [a teacher] not being nice to me? …it makes you worry as well, like, why I’m not getting treated the same way as others”  Jay, 18, from Palestine
“At the start of Year 7 there was a couple of [students who] would tell me, go back to your country, or, I know English better than you, you don’t need to be here…This person was quite racist to me, and really mean”  Karin, 14, from Syria
“The school had taken a whole school approach to applying for the Schools of Sanctuary award, and were very pleased to see so many positive benefits come out of their application, underpinning other work they were doing around SMSC and British Values.” Project Coordinator, Bradford Schools of Sanctuary

Schools play a crucial role in helping young people to make sense of the world, to become responsible citizens and to create positive change in their communities. There were 25.9 million refugees in the world according to the UNHCR’s 2018 Global Trends report, approximately half of whom were children, with climate change increasingly driving the forced displacement of people. The UK offered protection to 19,480 people in the year ending September 2019, up by more than a quarter on the previous year, and nearly 20,000 people (mainly Syrians) have been resettled since 2014 through the Vulnerable Person Resettlement Scheme. Schools are often at the forefront of receiving and supporting those forcibly displaced – for example, nearly a quarter of asylum seekers in the year ending September 2019 were under 18. Young people in the UK need not only to learn about these issues but where possible meet people face-to-face who have lived experience of displacement in order to understand both their local communities and the wider world better.

Working towards becoming a School of Sanctuary also provides schools with a powerful focus for possible development in areas such as:

  • Meeting the requirements of the Equality Act 2010
  • Imaginative re-engagement with required curriculum areas such literacy, language arts, geography, history, humanities
  • Social, Moral, Spiritual and Cultural education and ‘British Values’
  • Building a school culture that reduces intolerance, hate speech and bullying
  • Building an inclusive and supportive school community
  • Increasing pupil voice and promoting active & engaged citizenship
  • Engaging families and strengthening the school’s role in the local community
  • Improving the provision of English as an additional language in school
  • Helping improve pupil outcomes and attendance – students that feel safe and included will be more likely to attend schools
  • Promoting well-being & community cohesion by building empathetic school environments