Schools celebrate becoming ‘Schools of Sanctuary’

During Good Relations Week, 14 more schools in Northern Ireland have been recognised as Schools of Sanctuary, which celebrates their commitment to making their schools’ welcoming and inclusive spaces for everyone, helps pupils to develop cultural awareness across the curriculum, and strengthens connections with the wider community.

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Schools of Sanctuary Group Photo

During Good Relations Week, 14 more schools in Northern Ireland have been recognised as Schools of Sanctuary, which celebrates their commitment to making their schools’ welcoming and inclusive spaces for everyone, helps pupils to develop cultural awareness across the curriculum, and strengthens connections with the wider community.

Mark Browne, Director of Strategic Policy, Equality and Good Relations, The Executive Office commented on the day’s events:

“Today’s celebration event highlights more schools across Urban Villages areas that have become Schools of Sanctuary, now a total of 27 schools. It has been fantastic to see this showcase about pupils, teachers and communities who are working together to inspire and bring about change in their local areas and across the region.  

“We are also delighted to announce a new partnership with the Community Relations in Schools Buddy Up programme, which will build on the School of Sanctuary approach and bring pupils and families together to build new friendships and help local communities better understand each other’s culture and the everyday things that connect them.”

The Education Authority’s Intercultural Education Service, with funding from Urban Villages Initiative, has provided training and support to help the schools become places of sanctuary.

EA Chairperson Sharon O’Connor said:

As our communities in Northern Ireland continue to evolve and diversify, it is important that our children are supported in warm and welcoming places for everyone.  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 receiving School of Sanctuary status.”

Speaking during the event at Belfast City Hall, Lord Mayor Councillor John Finucane said:

“I’d like to welcome all of you children and teachers to City Hall and congratulate you on your commitment to making your schools inclusive places to learn, discover play and make friends. In this city, we pride ourselves on being a friendly, welcoming place to visit and call home, and your good work inspires us to continue improving our support for our diverse community.”

Among the work done by schools to earn a School of Sanctuary award includes, students hosting a “Diversity Day”, where they learned from each other about life in different countries, and newcomer students taught their Northern Ireland peers how to write their names in Arabic.

Another example saw refugees, asylum seekers and migrants share their experiences of their journey to a new country, the challenges they faced and arriving in a new place. Northern Ireland pupils were anxious to hear that newcomers felt safe in Belfast and this provoked a lot of thought and discussion.

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, and is aiming to have the City Council declare Belfast to be a 'City of Sanctuary’.

Israel Eguaogie, Chair of Belfast City of Sanctuary said

“We are proud to be working with the Urban Villages Initiative and the Education Authority on this inspiring programme. Our teams of Monitors have been most impressed by the great work that is being done in schools to welcome and adapt to the growing diversity of our city and promote the positive inclusion of all including newcomer communities.”

The 14 new Schools of Sanctuary are:

Belfast

  1. Fane Street Primary School
  2. St Matthew’s Primary School
  3. Mercy Primary School
  4. St Malachy’s Primary School
  5. Holy Cross Boys’ Primary School
  6. Scoil na Fuiseoige
  7. Belfast Boys’ Model School
  8. Our Lady’s Girls’ Primary School
  9. Ligoniel Primary School
  10. Bunscoil Bheann Mhadagáin
  11. Belfast Girls’ Model School

Derry/Londonderry

  1. Nazareth House Primary School
  2. St Cecilia’s College
  3. Fountain Primary School
Last modified: 17/09/2019