Two Newcastle primary schools have been officially recognised for their inclusivity and ‘welcoming ethos’ with each winning a prestigious School of Sanctuary Award.

Both schools are members of the Bishop Bewick Catholic Education Trust, and were among 11 awarded the accolade in a ceremony held at The Great North Museum.

St Michael’s Catholic Primary in Elswick was the first of the Trust’s schools to achieve School of Sanctuary status, followed by fellow BBCET member Our Lady and St Anne’s.

The award was introduced by the City of Sanctuary UK, an organisation founded in 2004 to support those seeking sanctuary in communities around the country.

St Michael’s headteacher, Ciara Yeoman, said: “The School of Sanctuary Award recognises the efforts of schools to promote the wellbeing of those seeking sanctuary, such as asylum seekers and refugees, and awards schools with a welcoming ethos.

“We applied in 2020, pre-Covid, but, because of the pandemic, the presentation has only happened now.

“At the time we applied, I was English as an Additional Language Lead at the school, working with children who are refugees and asylum seekers, and I wanted to know where we could improve our practices.

“It was an extensive process, and a detailed application with lots and lots of questions, and lots of lots of information gathering.”

“About 60 to 65 percent of our children have English as an additional language, and most of those are not from Europe,” she added.  “Most of them have fled from countries that have experienced war and trauma.

“We have children from the Congo, Eritrea, Papua New Guinea, Syria, and many other places – it’s so exciting and vibrant to be part of such a diverse community, and we have to make sure everyone is welcomed.

“Achieving the School of Sanctuary Award was a real team effort, and we’re extremely proud of St Michael’s.”

Sam Henzell, headteacher at Our Lady and St Anne’s, commented: “We pride ourselves in embracing and celebrating the many cultures and religions our school community share.

“Within school, our children and parents speak 37 different languages, and we have children from many different faiths.

“In school, the children’s individualities have always been celebrated, and our children are not only respectful and tolerant of other faiths and cultures, but are naturally curious about their community and the wider world around them.”

She continued: “When the opportunity arose to apply to be a ‘School of Sanctuary’, we obviously jumped at the chance to applaud the amazing efforts of our children and staff.

“As part of our application we created an SOS Team, and the group effort of these children was instrumental in ensuring that our application was successful.

“The panel of judges stated that they were really impressed with the ideas that the SOS Team came up with, with everything from how the school can welcome new students to what the school community can do to support asylum seekers and refugees, as well as helping with welcome pamphlets, a welcome board in the school entrance and providing a buddy system to new children.

“This accolade has not only celebrated the school’s efforts, but has reignited our dedication to ensuring that Our Lady & St Anne’s Catholic Primary School remains the friendly, safe and welcoming place that we promise to our students and families.”

Sent on behalf of Bishop Bewick Catholic Education Trust and Barking Dog Media. For more information contact or call 07754 271086.