The Academy of St Francis of Assisi (ASFA) has become the first secondary school in Liverpool to receive 'School of Sanctuary' status as reward for its efforts to provide a safe haven for its pupils.
The Kensington-based academy caters for pupils from a wide range of cultural backgrounds – including refugees and asylum-seekers – and more than 40 languages are spoken by the children studying there. Head of school Tracey Greenough explained the work undertaken to ensure that pupils feel at home at the joint-faith Catholic and Church of England academy.
"Creating sanctuary is something that I'm thrilled ASFA has been recognised for," she said. "Lots of hard work and commitment has contributed to our School of Sanctuary status. Day-to-day life at the academy is underpinned by the Christian values of respect, care, compassion, peace and reconciliation. With these values in mind, creating an inclusive environment for all our students is at the top of the agenda."
As well as meeting the parents or care-givers of each pupil on their arrival at the academy, ASFA staff strive to break down potential communication barriers, according to Mrs Greenough. "More often than not, language barriers can lead to the isolation of pupils who arrive with little to no English skills," she explained. "Even the smallest gestures can ease this transition such as providing every pupil with a bilingual dictionary and offering English booster classes. One of our most successful schemes is our language buddy programme which pairs common language pupils together to aid each other with language progression."
To help promote positive attitudes, the academy encourages pupils to learn about other languages and cultures, with Polish and Arabic courses available to study up to GSCE. It also offers a physical haven in the form of a rooftop garden, where pupils can grow and harvest vegetables together.
Additionally, ASFA has developed strong links with Asylum Link Merseyside and the Ethnic Minority and Traveller Achievement Service (EMTAS), and is involved with Alder Hey Hospital in its Tree of Life project, whereby children can reflect on their strengths and cultural and social histories.