Guest post about The Royal Spa Nursery

This Refugee Week there is a special celebration planned at Royal Spa nursery school in Brighton.  The nursery has been awarded the first Nursery of Sanctuary award in the city.  Brighton is proud to be a city of sanctuary, working to providing a welcoming environment for refugees.  Good practice for refugee children and families is embedded in the nursery, through their welcome, the celebration of all their languages, and the support to access a range of local services.  Families are invited to join in and volunteer wherever possible.

Languages at Spa

Mary Ellinger, the head teacher, talked about how Royal Spa became a nursery of sanctuary

All our staff and governors had training about refugees. This was very powerful in raising our awareness and inspiring us. In the winter we had a Celebration of Light. This drew on the common themes of light from many different winter festivals. We invited all our families to attend, but particularly encouraged our refugee families. This was a joyous event, with a walk carrying lanterns made by the children, and music from a Syrian father. It finished with a wonderful array of food from around the world.

The festival of light

The nursery promotes diversity by the stories and resources they use and the images they present to the children through their displays.  Young children need to develop a positive sense of themselves and explore similarities and differences before they can understand the needs and experiences of others.  Here are some ideas for making a positive start in educating our youngest citizens about refugees:

  • Explore the themes of journeys, belonging and offering support through stories such as ‘Lost and Found’ by Oliver Jeffers.  Choose a story with language simple enough for young children to engage and understand.
  • Use displays around a common theme such as ‘Homes’ or ‘Journeys’ as an opportunity to present children with a range of images.  Use a ‘mirror and a window’ approach.  Children can see images they recognise from their own lives (mirror) and connect with images of homes around the world (mirror).  Images of refugees could be included in this for discussion.
  • Building dens encourages talk around what we need for shelter and safety.  Children can be asked how it might feel to have no home.
  • Model taking care of others and giving safety through songs.  For example looking after a toy who is hurt or lonely or sad.  We changed the words of the traditional song In a Cottage in a Wood, taking out the farmer and his gun but keeping the ‘be safe with me’ theme.
  • An excellent book for young children is ‘My name is not Refugee’ by Kate Milner.  The book explains the experience of being a refugee in a very simple child-friendly way.
  • Children should hear the word ‘refugee’ in a positive context.  Find examples online of famous people and professionals e.g. Mo Farah and Rita Ora who are from a refugee background.  The ‘I am an immigrant’ or the Australian ‘I came by boat’ campaigns have some good images to use.

A story with Ikram

Persona dolls are an excellent resource.  The children at Royal Spa introduced the children to Ikram, a refugee from Afghanistan.  He came and made friends with the children and they made him a special book.  The book captures the children’s voice about how they would welcome him to nursery e.g.

Welcoming Ikram to nursery

The nursery is planning a special celebration this year.  They are including a stall about Refugee Week at their summer fair with information about local events.  They are looking at the logo for Refugee Week and making spotty badges.  They will then make a celebration display based on the design with children drawing their faces instead of the spots.  There will be discussions about what the logo represents and how everyone can be welcomed and join in.

For more information about persona dolls and their approach: