Becoming a School of Sanctuary

Our school, St Joseph’s Cathedral Primary School in Swansea, has been collaborating with organisations such as Swansea City of Sanctuary to welcome our asylum seeker and refugees families into our school and local community. We have been working closely with Swansea City of Sanctuary and Cafod, and also building on our Lead Creative Schools work over the past year (funded by the Welsh Assembly Government and the Arts Council for Wales), which focused on Irish immigration into the Greenhill community. As a school, we have gained a deeper understanding of the importance of welcoming everyone into our community, with arms open wide.

Pupils have explored the experiences and emotions that migrants may face as they arrived in a new place. They have been learning about the concepts of what it’s like growing up in a new place/country, and how to question what community is. They have learnt about support and opposition to settlement and how faith can play its part in helping communities and individuals settle.

The children in our school come from a wide range of different ethical and cultural backgrounds. Children have shared their ideas on how we welcome people and help them settle into our communities. We have asked questions such as ‘what does it feel like to be different?’ and ‘how and why we should accept difference and diversity?’ It has made members of our school community consider how we can overcome these challenges and how we can help to build stronger communities.

The school is creating a display in the foyer of the Civic Centre in conjunction with City of Sanctuary, to be displayed during Refugee Week. The work shown in this exhibition has allowed the members of our school community to connect with other people emotionally in different ways, in ways that go beyond language and beyond words and beyond the walls of our buildings whether they be in our schools, museums or universities. It has helped us to work with people with very different experiences and backgrounds. It has made us consider the space and feelings we share despite our differences, to question and challenge our expectations and reactions and attitudes of others. It has helped us to understand what displacement means for people and has helped us consider and relate migrant journeys of others to our own experiences. Through the art work produced there is no need for words or language the art work itself speaks for itself, transcending all boundaries, a message of unity and togetherness and community.

This month we hope to be awarded our Schools of Sanctuary Status, in the Civic Centre. Schools of Sanctuary is for everyone: the school itself, pupils, parents, communities, local people and people seeking sanctuary. It’s a way to engage sanctuary seekers and families with their communities and educate teachers and children about the human right to sanctuary.

In this role, St. Joseph’s will continue to be  a school that helps its students, staff and wider community understand what it means to be seeking sanctuary and to extend a welcome to everyone as equal, valued members of the school community. It is a school that is proud to be a place of safety and inclusion for all.

We want our children in St. Joseph’s to live in a world where every child feels safe and accepted regardless of what they believe, where they are from or what they look like; a world where cultural diversity is valued and celebrated. We are proud to be part of the Schools of Sanctuary initiative, which aims to make this vision a reality and encourage all schools and Higher Educational establishments to do the same.