An Oxfordshire school has taken on two new refugee students since gaining ‘Refugee Welcome School’ (RWS) accreditation in July 2021.

Run collaboratively by Citizens UK and teachers’ union NASUWT, the RWS Scheme recognises schools that have made a commitment to welcome refugees.  

The Bicester School gained RWS accreditation last July after teacher Amy Hall made the application. At the time of accreditation, she said that many of the RWS’ requirements were already being met by the admissions and EAL [English as an Additional Language] teams. Which meant that only a few additional measures were introduced to successfully accredit.  

Within the last 10 months since gaining accreditation, the school has taken on two new refugee students. This in addition to the refugee and EAL students who were already studying at the school.

Marzena Henry, a teacher at The Bicester School responsible for overlooking the RWS programme, said: “We have accepted two new refugee students and currently have seven students with a refugee status. We also have a number of new EAL students who didn’t come to the UK under a refugee scheme. However, they also require a lot of individual support with language and settling in.”

The school undertakes several special activities aimed at supporting refugee and EAL students to learn and integrate.

Marzena said: “We provide one to one support in extra English tuition and specialist online resources. We have a volunteer specialised in TEFL to provide additional one to one sessions, and we offer mentoring by older students. Students are also invited to an EAL lunch club to help them build friendships, celebrate their cultures and practise English.”

She added: “We are making sure that students have access to bilingual dictionaries and other bilingual resources. Teachers and staff are going the extra mile to provide additional support for our refugees and EAL students.”

Considering the current Ukraine crisis, it is to be expected that Ukrainian families who have resettled in the UK will be enrolling their children in local schools. With its RWS status, The Bicester School is ready to receive these children.

Marzena said: “Where we have capacity our school will be more than happy to accept any Ukrainian refugees as we already have students with a Ukrainian background. I believe we have experience in supporting them well.

“I understand how important this support is as my hometown is near the Ukrainian border and I was visiting my family when the conflict started. A picturesque, touristic place became within a day a backstage to the war zone. Full of armed soldiers, crowds of refugees and hundreds of volunteers.”


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