Fourteen more schools celebrate becoming ‘Schools of Sanctuary’
Kicking off Good Relations Week, 14 more schools in Northern Ireland have been recognised as Schools of Sanctuary in an online celebration event.
The Schools of Sanctuary initiative aims to develop welcoming and safe schools for all children and young people, their families and wider community. It aims to value and celebrate cultural diversity by developing intercultural skills and thinking.
First Minister Arlene Foster said: “Today we have another 14 schools celebrating becoming a School of Sanctuary. There are now a total of 42 schools serving Urban Village areas that have achieved School of Sanctuary status. This is a truly wonderful achievement that recognises the key role that the children, young people, teachers and the whole school community, have taken in promoting good relations and making sure that every new student is valued and fully included in school life.”
Deputy First Minster Michelle O’Neill said: “School of Sanctuary status is something these schools have all been working towards over the last year, and continued through these challenging times of the coronavirus pandemic. All children and young people deserve a warm and welcoming environment that supports them to thrive as individuals. I’m really impressed by the schools’ commitment to create truly inclusive places where everyone can feel safe and accepted regardless of what they believe or where they are from.”
The Education Authority’s Intercultural Education Service, with funding from Urban Villages Initiative and working collaboratively with the City of Sanctuary, has provided training and support to help the schools become places of sanctuary. Sara Long, Chief Executive of the Education Authority, thanked the First and Deputy First Minister for joining the celebration event and their words of support and congratulations were extremely well received by the schools receiving their awards online.
“As communities continue to evolve and diversify, it is important that our children grow and learn in places which are safe and welcoming. The School of Sanctuary programme is a wonderful example of what reaching out to our neighbours can achieve.
“We are proud to be involved in the development of this programme, and I would like to thank everyone involved, including the dedicated school staff and the many talented children and young people who have showcased the fantastic work that has gone into their school being recognised as a School of Sanctuary.”
Some of the new ‘Schools of Sanctuary’, who participated in an online celebration during Good Relations Week 2020
Among the work done by schools to earn a School of Sanctuary award included students hosting a day where they wore badges to encourage asking questions about their culture. Students also had opportunities to learn from each other about life in different countries. Another example saw schools embracing language, by displaying multi-lingual signs in their schools, so everyone who attends will see words in their home-language.
Schools of Sanctuary is part of the Belfast City of Sanctuary group, a voluntary organisation working between the host community, refugee and newcomer communities. The programme collaborates with public bodies and voluntary and community organisations to make Belfast a welcoming environment for people seeking sanctuary and a home here.
Israel Eguaogie, Chair of Belfast City of Sanctuary said;
“The effort and commitment of teachers and pupils in schools to welcome and promote the inclusion of newcomer communities is something to celebrate, and we are proud to be working with the Urban Villages Initiative and the Education Authority on this programme.”
The 14 new Schools of Sanctuary are:
- Carr’s Glen Primary School
- Ballysillan Primary School
- Glenwood Primary School
- Edenbrooke Primary School
- St Paul’s Primary School
- St Vincent de Paul Primary School
- St Colm’s High School
- All Saints College
- Ashfield Girls’ High School
- Gaelscoil Éadain Mhóir
- St Eugene’s Primary School
- St Joseph’s Boys’ High School
- Tonagh Primary School
- Killowen Primary School