Belfast City of Sanctuary has been working closely with the Education Authority of Northern Ireland to support the Schools of Sanctuary initiative. One crucial part of the preparation was the training of appraisal teams, a mix of refugees, asylum seekers and local Belfast COS supporters, who have been going into schools and looking at the packs for the purposes of endorsing the award. Here is their account of what it has been like:
It’s been a wonderful experience for our teams in Belfast who have awarded the school of sanctuary award to 11 new schools which include Long Tower PS, Malone Inte College, Donegall Road PS, Elmgrove PS, Holy Evangelists’ PS, St Kieran’s PS, Christ the Redeemer PS, Gppd Shepherd PS, Mercy College, Holy Cross Girls PS and the Sacred Heart Boys PS.
Our teams have experienced a friendly welcome, warmth and hospitality and a spirit of inclusion within the school environment of these institutions. A common idea that was shared by all these schools was that diversity is something to be proud of and that this type of open-mindedness and inclusive learning will equip children not only for their school years but also after. Eleven schools went through the assessment this year and ten more are scheduled for next year.
We have to acknowledge the tremendous work the Education Authority put into making sure the Schools of Sanctuary Toolkit matched our education structures, the preparation they did with each individual school to attain the standards for accreditation as a School of Sanctuary, the template of things to watch out for as we inspected and also accompanying our teams when we went out to inspect. You can find out more on how to become a School of Sanctuary here.