A pioneering initiative in Norfolk schools which introduces pupils to the issues of displacement, refugees and the importance of welcome, is widened to Essex and Cambridgeshire for the first time in June 2021.
This year, over 120 schools across three counties are taking part in Norfolk Schools of Sanctuary’s day of action. “A Day of Welcome is a day of solidarity and learning in schools that aims to build a culture of welcome and understanding for refugees and asylum seekers.“
Free lesson plans and assembly ideas are provided by experienced teachers to allow schools to engage their pupils with the complex issues surrounding migration. The aims are to:
Build understanding of the experiences and contributions made by refugees and asylum seekers
Uncover and celebrate little-known stories of refugee migration
Signpost Refugee Week events which pupils, families and staff may wish to participate in
For the first time this year, ‘A Day of Welcome’ will run across the East, with each county having their own special event. This year’s resources are inspired by the stories of the Basque child refugees who came to the East of England during the Spanish Civil War.
You can learn more about their stories at the Havens East Online Exhibition. Schools in Essex will receive a special resource about the Basque children who sought a safe haven at Theydon Bois. These resources are also available to schools throughout the year.
The expansion of this initiative has been made possible through support from Anglia Ruskin University, who have worked closely with Norfolk Schools of Sanctuary to develop the project. It will be offered to over 700 schools in Essex and Cambridgeshire as well as all Norfolk schools. In Norfolk alone, 60,000+ school children have participated in this project since it began in 2018.
Jake Rose-Brown, a teacher at Avenue Junior School who set up the initiative said:
“Norfolk has such a fascinating history as a place of sanctuary for refugees, from The Strangers of the 16th century, who brought with them the canaries that Norwich City Football Club later adopted as their emblem, to the most recently arrived Syrian families, and countless other individuals and groups. For centuries, people have been fleeing danger in their homelands, seeking sanctuary and rebuilding their lives in our county. ‘A Day of Welcome’ shines a light on these little-known stories, helps pupils to see beyond the headlines and gain a deeper understanding of why people are forced to become refugees… and what that experience may be like. We hope that this year many more schools will join us again as we build a culture of welcome in our communities.”
Jeannette Baxter, Associate Professor in English Literature at Anglia Ruskin University and co-lead of ‘A Day of Welcome’ said:
“It’s particularly exciting to extend this year’s ‘A Day of Welcome’ to school communities across Essex and Cambridgeshire because both counties have long played an important role in welcoming refugees and asylum seekers. Our specially designed resources will offer students the chance to engage with these overlooked stories of our collective history, and help them to make connections between stories of refugee migration, past and present, local and global. ‘A Day of Welcome’ is a necessary call to action. We very much hope that this year, the school communities of Norfolk, Essex and Cambridgeshire will come together to show support and solidarity for everyone in search of a safe and welcoming community.”
This year’s ‘A Day of Welcome’ comes at a time when the Government has just published its new Immigration Bill. Charities and campaign groups who represent refugees and asylum seekers have come together to coordinate a consultation response and will launch a joint campaign called ‘Together with Refugees’ on Monday 10th May. Norfolk Schools of Sanctuary fully support this campaign, who have set out this statement:
“How we treat refugees is about who we are. At our best, we are welcoming and kind to those facing difficult times. If any one of us feared for our lives or for our loved ones, we’d want to know that others would help us to safety. Together, we are calling for a better approach to supporting refugees that is more effective, fair and humane. This means standing up for people’s ability to seek safety in the UK no matter how they came here and ensuring people can live in dignity while they wait for a decision on their asylum application. It means empowering refugees to rebuild their lives and make valuable contributions to our communities. And it means the UK working with other countries to do our bit to help people who are forced to flee their homes. Be a part of our shared movement for change.”