In Birmingham over 30 schools are part of our Schools of Sanctuary network, of which ten have received the award and the others are at various stages on the journey. Our newest participant is actually a college, which will be a new kind of challenge for us.
This year, several schools decided to focus on Climate Refugees, inspired by a Climate Refugee Art Competition organised for schools by Birmingham Friends of the Earth. One of our Schools of Sanctuary, Welsh House Farm Primary, took first, second and third prizes in the relevant categories and also, during Refugee Week itself, arranged a half-hour presentation for parents and carers at their regular School of Sanctuary coffee morning. Other schools did not enter the competition (the deadline was very early!) but instead ran their own competition. In some primary schools, every class engaged in an activity relating to climate refugees and in one secondary school, recently-arrived Syrian children based their work on drought, fire and deforestation.
Once again this year we were fortunate to have the services of a local poet and trained teacher, who visited ten schools to run poetry workshops. We also took speakers into nine schools and when we didn’t make it to the tenth school (one of our secondaries) because of horrendous traffic jams, some of the students stepped in and told their stories instead – and were proud to do so. In one other secondary, every Year 9 class had a special lesson on refugees and in another secondary, our link teacher put together a power-point presentation designed to last for exactly twenty minutes, with links to short clips of interviews and poems, and this was shown in every single class during form time.
One of the schools which gained the award three years ago, St Vincent’s, had an inspiring blog about some of their activities: