A North Shields secondary school has welcomed four Ukrainian students to its community. St Thomas More Catholic High School, a member of the Bishop Bewick Catholic Education Trust, has been joined by Maks Denyshchych, Ksenia Zozulia, Valeriia Komorova and Nazar Popovych, all of whom have fled the war in their home country and are currently being hosted by families in the Newcastle area.

Helen Bell, who is responsible for English as an Additional Language (EAL) at St Thomas More, said: “Our first aim was to ensure our Ukrainian students felt relaxed and able to develop the English skills that they already had. When they first arrived, we were able to provide them with laptops, and also with buddies who helped them get used to the routines of a large secondary school – we all quickly learned how much Google Translate has improved! They have all settled in well, and this academic year has seen Valeriia and Maks embark on GCSE courses.

Valeriia commented on her new school: “All teachers try to help you, they try to understand. For us it’s very important, because sometimes we don’t understand everything, so they come to translate for us.

Maks agreed: “Here teachers help students who are working hard, here teachers are more kind.

Nazar and Ksenia have also appreciated the support, with Ksenia reporting: “When I first came into this school, I was very nervous, because it’s very big and I thought I would get lost. But I feel OK – my friends help me, lots of girls come with me to every lesson and tell me where to sit and what to do.

Nazar added: “This school is very large! Our school in Ukraine is just one big building.

St Thomas More prides itself on its inclusivity and has also welcomed eight students from Hong Kong to the school over the last two years.

Ms Bell continued: “We are a very inclusive school, with about 30-plus different home languages being spoken by our students and their families, and we actively encourage multilingualism. I interview our Year 7 intake to make sure we have the correct language and educational information, and to float the possibility of doing a GCSE or A Level in their home language where appropriate.

Last year’s GCSE subjects at St Thomas More included Polish and Spanish, while A Levels were achieved in Greek and Arabic.

This year the school hopes to enter students for GCSE Spanish, Polish, Arabic and Chinese, along with A Level Italian.

Added Ms Bell: “It is clear that these four students from Ukraine have formed a bond based on language and their shared experiences, but that they have also become an integral part of our school. For as long as they choose to stay, we hope they continue to feel welcome, and, when they return home, we hope they will keep in touch.

Article prepared on behalf of Bishop Bewick Catholic Education Trust by Barking Dog Media. For more information email: david@barkingdogmedia.co.uk or call 07754 271086.