Hellesdon High School’s Refugee Week celebrations

Various events were organised around Hellesdon High School during the week commencing 18th June, in recognition of the 65 million displaced people in the world who have been forced to leave their homes due to conflict or fear of persecution.

A ‘Pop-Up Gig’ was held on Tuesday 19th, in one of the school’s locker rooms where moving performances, touching on the theme of home and identity, were heard by a crowd of cheering students over lunchtime. The talented singers and musicians included Deanna Matthews (aged 11), Liah Brown (aged 13), Nelma Lemos (aged 15), all-girl band The Caravan Club and the rock band Black Rose.

A small group of Key Stage 3 students joined other schools for an art workshop at The Octagon Chapel, where the children created their own flags that embodied themes around being a refugee. The flags were then featured at an art installation for the Schools of Sanctuary Showcase evening which was held on Tuesday 19th. The Norwich Schools of Sanctuary Showcase was organised to celebrate this year’s Refugee Week theme – the contributions, creativity and resilience of refugees. It included original pieces of music, poetry and drama created by children of Norwich.

On Wednesday, the school invited a guest speaker to hold year group assemblies. Dr Eiad Zinah spoke to students and answered questions about his long journey to the UK, which he had to make in order to escape the violence in Syria.

On Thursday, a series of creative short films and animations were screened in one of the drama classrooms and on Friday, staff brought in some home-baked goods for a bake sale that raised £85 for New Routes Integration. The school also held a non-uniform day toward the end of term, where further funds were raised.  In total the school raised £886 for the local charity who work with refugees and asylum-seekers in Norwich.

The week also saw most curriculum subjects delivering lessons around the theme of displacement with a focus on how to welcome and support refugees locally. For example, in English lessons younger students wrote poetry to advocate the integration of refugees into our local community and older students analysed the poetry of contemporary refugees from Sudan and Somalia. PE examined famous athletes, particularly footballers who are also refugees, to tie in with the World Cup and in Maths, students explored the practical budgeting and financial implications of being a refugee in Britain.

Jess Baker, an English teacher at the school who was also responsible for organising and promoting Refugee Week in school said “I feel incredibly proud of the sensitive and empathic work produced by students during Refugee Week. A common phrase produced in the children’s work was that here at Hellesdon “refugees are welcome”, which I believe is reflective of our students’ capacity for celebrating our differences”.

The school’s aim for the week was to create awareness amongst students about why people become refugees, in order to create a greater understanding and to overcome hostility. “We feel that we have succeeded in what we set out to do this week. Students have responded really well to the lessons and activities and have shown a keen interest in the cause. We want Hellesdon High to be a place where human kindness is instinctive and cultural diversity is celebrated.” says Roz Yassin, another key organiser of Refugee Week at the school.

The school’s Refugee Week activities are part of Hellesdon High School’s application to be recognised as a School of Sanctuary. To find out how your school could become a School of Sanctuary please see here.