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School of Sanctuary awarded to centre in Smethwick

Sandwell Council’s STEPS Centre in Smethwick has been accredited as a School of Sanctuary in recognition of the centre’s support for new arrivals.

STEPS Centre joins a national network of more than 400 primary and secondary schools, nurseries and sixth forms all committed to creating a culture of welcome and inclusion for refugees and people seeking asylum.

The award demonstrates a whole-school approach to support and understand those who may be seeking sanctuary. Sandwell Transition Education Partnership Service (STEPS) demonstrated its track record in fostering a culture of welcome, belonging and solidarity for those seeking safety and is the first school in Sandwell to gain this accreditation.

The STEPS Centre is believed to be the only centre in the country of its kind offering support to new arrivals to the UK by supporting whole families to access the help they need and helping to integrate children into school life and finding them a permanent place in a school.

Councillor Simon Hackett, Cabinet Member for Children, young People and Education received the award on behalf of the STEPS Centre. He said: “Sandwell is a place with both a strong sense of community and a rich history of migration and we are proud of our work to help new arrivals.

“The School of Sanctuary Award is recognition of all the hard work the team at the STEPS Centre does on a day-to-day basis to help those in need of our support.

“The centre carries out a vital role within our community by supporting families from around the world including Ukraine, Afghan citizens who are eligible for relocation to the UK and more recently Sudanese British citizens.

“We are determined to give those who are seeking sanctuary in Sandwell the support they need to make their home in our borough.”

Staff, children and Cllr Simon Hackett at the STEPS centre in Smethwick

Julie Link representing the Sanctuary Award Committee recently presented STEPS with the certificate.

The judging committee stated:

“What particularly stands out is the sense of responsibility every member of staff feels towards upholding sanctuary values and going above and beyond to support the students they welcome and their families.

“It is clear that this is something everyone holds very personally and I am confident that this shared understanding , which everyone so evidently feels very proud about and is empowered by, means that sanctuary values and ethos are wholly embedded and sustainable in STEPS.

“It is truly a unique and important provision that you have all developed and I hope you use this award decision as an opportunity to reflect on and acknowledge all of your efforts and the meaningful impact this has on young people’s transitions to the UK and into UK education. What STEPS does is phenomenal.”

Feedback from families:

“My Ukrainian family have been through a lot as well as a mountain of Bureaucracy [..] Steps, Smethwick have been a breath of fresh air. Offering Real help and support the team are excellent and go well beyond the call of duty to help and advice. This service is crucial for these vulnerable people who need simplicity and kindness which Steps Smethwick offers. Thankyou in this difficult time.”

I would like to express my wholehearted gratitude to you and your organisation: STEPS has become the first educational place to welcome my child and to offer not only positive and family -like surroundings but also  practical help securing a school place. Now my child is looking forward to continuing his studies and to participation in all school activities as he used to do in Ukraine.

Councillor Simon Hackett at the STEPS centre with a member of staff and children