BACK TO SCHOOL: Children at Abbey Primary ‘Fill the Skies with Hope’ and send a messge to PM Liz Truss over UK refugee policies

Words by Ed King / Pics by Ed King & Abbey Catholic Primary School

“If there is a refugee, we are all going to welcome him or her in our school – because we support refugees and we want more refugees to join our safe and caring and loving country.”

On Friday 23 September, children at Abbey Catholic Primary School in Erdington took part in a nationwide campaign to ‘Fill the Skies with Hope’ and send a message to the newly appointed Prime Minister, Liz Truss, over the UK’s policies on refugees.

The whole school engaged in the special event, making orange paper aeroplanes carrying messages of support and solidarity and sending them into the skies at the same time.

Led by Abbey Principal, Mr McTernan, all children and classes gathered together in the school playground at 2:30pm – launching 420 paper aeroplanes in unison to show the school’s support for refugees and displaced people.

The ‘Fill the Skies with Hope’ campaign – coordinated by the national coalition Together with Refugees – saw schools, community groups, and local organisations across the country make their own paper aeroplanes and launch them in a ‘Day of Action’ on Friday 23 September.

Together with Refugees organised the ‘Fill the Skies with Hope’ campaign to directly challenge the British Government about the colloquially called Rwanda Plan, where people identified by the UK as illegal immigrants or asylum seekers are relocated to Rwanda.

The Rwanda Plan was signed into law by the then Home Secretary Priti Patel, and Rwandan foreign minister Vincent Biruta on 13 April 2022 – with the current Home Secretary, Suella Braverman, now overseeing the scheme.

Together with Refugees was founded by Asylum Matters, British Red Cross, Freedom from Torture, Rainbow Migration, Refugee Action, Refugee Council, and Scottish Refugee Council.

Abbey Catholic Primary School is part of the Birmingham School of Sanctuary Network, committed to ‘promoting welcome, inclusion and awareness of the problems faced by people seeking sanctuary.’ – with the school’s curriculum embracing the issues around refugees and displaced people.

Ahead of the paper aeroplane launch, children from Year 4 had been involved in lessons and learning around refugees all day – including reading Kate Milner’s illustrated children’s book, My Name is Not Refugee.

“It (My Name is Not Refugee) was about a boy who had to flee his country because of war and his mum was saying they will call you refugee,” explained Henry Bradington (4LD).

“At the start we learned what our names mean, so we could not call refugees refugees, but to call them by their name,” told Benedict Abraham (4LD). “I learnt not to label people but to call them by their own names,” added Ava White (4CC)

“We also learnt how people in India, 5 million people, had to flee because of natural disasters such as floods, earthquakes, and droughts,” told Victoria Gabriella (4LD).

Year 4 Teacher and Year 3/4 Pastoral Lead, Miss Doyle, added: “We’re a school of sanctuary and they’ve (the children) have been immersed in that entire journey.

“I think it’s so important in this multicultural society not only do they understand refugees and their position, but that they are embracing it and they are welcoming… that they don’t have those stereotypes and are not afraid of it.”

Children at Abbey Catholic Primary ‘Fill the Skies with Hope’ – Friday 23 September

For more on Abbey Catholic Primary School visit www.abbeyrc.bham.sch.uk

For more on Together with Refugees visit www.togetherwithrefugees.org.uk

BACK TO SCHOOL: Abbey Primary School collect bikes for local refugees and displaced people

Words and pics from Abbey Primary School

In an effort to support local refugees, Abbey Primary School are getting involved in ‘The Bike Project’ – to help displaced people coming to Birmingham with travel around the city.

‘The Bike Project’ takes second hand bikes in any condition, fixes them, and donates them to refugees and asylum seekers in Birmingham and London. According to their website, over 9,600 bikes have been donated so far.

Children at The Abbey have been learning about the plight of displaced people around the world and are reaching out to the local community to help them help others through ‘The Bike Project’.

Rebecca Lonergan, a teacher at Abbey Primary School, said: “We are very proud to be a School of Sanctuary and are always looking for new ways we can help support and show solidarity with refugees.

“We have been lucky to meet lots of people with first hand, lived experience of the asylum process and learn about the many issues they face, so when our Year 6 children heard about the charity ‘The Bike Project’ we knew straight away that this was something we wanted to support.

“Life for refugees in the UK can be very hard. Having to learn a new language and culture far from family and friends after fleeing for safety can lead to mental health issues. Alongside this, having to live on less than £6 a day whilst not having the right to work leads to further struggles and isolation.

“The gift of a bike provides free travel, a chance to meet new people and become part of a community, and boosts physical and mental health.”

The Abbey will be opening its doors all day on Friday 17 June, asking anyone with a bike to donate to drop it off at the school.

Rebecca added: “We are aiming to collect 50 bikes and we need our generous local community to help! Year 6 children at The Abbey will be hosting a pop-up donation point on Friday 17 June, from 8:30am to 3pm.

“We will be taking donations of any old bikes – they do not need to be in working order.  Bikes can be any size (including children’s bikes)”.

If you can donate a bike to The Abbey, as part of ‘The Bike Project’, they can be dropped during the day on Friday 17 June at: Abbey Catholic Primary School, Sutton Road, Erdington, B23 6QL

If you have any queries or would like to drop a bike at a different time, please contact r.lonergan@abbeyrc.bham.sch.uk

BACK TO SCHOOL: St Barnabas Primary School receives Bishop of Birmingham Award

Words by Ed King / Pics by Ed King and St Barnabas Primary School

Erdington’s St Barnabas Church of England Primary recently received a Bishop of Birmingham Award, one of only three schools across the diocese to achieve the accolade.

Bishop David Urquhart, the longest serving bishop in the Church of England, presented the award during a special visit to the Spring Lane school last month.

Having been notified about winning the award in March 2022, the school staff and children had waited months to welcome the bishop – who brought a special trophy to recognise the school’s commitment to Christian values.

In an official citation sent to St Barnabas, Bishop Urquhart commended how Christian ‘values are illustrated and lived out by all in the school’ and how the children there can ‘use them to reflect upon their lives.’

Arriving in time for morning assembly, the bishop was met by St Barnabas’s Values and Ethos Committee, made up of children from across the school year groups.

Visibly excited and curious to meet the bishop, the children engaged with the senior clergyman and talked about the school theme of the week, ‘honesty’ – and how Fridays were ‘peace and quiet’ days at St Barnabas.

Bishop Urquart was patient and unpatronising with all the children, looking through the book pf reflections and talking to them about their individual beliefs, faiths, and the school’s core principles and values, before heading into the main school hall for a special assembly.

Hosted by Reverend Emma Sykes from St Barnabas Church, the assembly began with singing ‘Oh Happy Day’ before members of the Values and Ethos Committee told Bishop Urquhart the lessons they learned from the Christian parable of the Good Samaritan.

Harvey, Year 5, explained: “Out of all our key Bible stories which help us understand our footprint values, our favourite is the Good Samaritan. I think it teaches a lot about helping people and that everyone can make a difference through their actions.”

Safiyah, Year 3, added: “I think the Good Smartian teaches us to be respectful of others no matter your colour or religion.”

Leo, Year 4, said: “I think the Good Smartian is a good story because it helps people to help other people no matter who they are they don’t have to be our friend.”

Umaiza, Year 6, told Bishop David: “It helps us to understand that no matter who you are you can help people and other people can help you.”

Jeevan, Year 4, believed the parable “is important because it teaches us kindness and all faiths can be united and work together.”

Whilst Molly, Year 4, agreed “because of this story, we include everyone no matter who they are because we want to be like the good Smartian

Bishop Urquhart then told how the Good Samaritan was one of his first and favourite Christian stories, but how similar lessons of bravery and fortitude could be found from in David and Goliath.

The assembly then concluded by singing ‘Lord I Lift You Name On High’, and series Christian, Sikh, and Muslim prayers, alongside a special private prayer delivered by Bishop Urquhart.

After saying goodbye to the school and posing for a group photo with children and staff, Bishop Urquhart was keen to praise the good work and commitment to Christian values from everyone at St Barnabas.

He told Erdington Local: “The Bishop of Birmingham Award is for particular focus on Christian values and ethos in a school, and St Barnabas has integrated their values into the ordinary life of the school.

“They’re not just a ‘tick box’ – they’re really being lived and discussed and practiced by the children and staff, both at school and at home.

“And the welcome I’ve had this morning from the Values and Ethos Committee, which is made up of the children, has been really remarkable. They’re able to talk about the difficulties and realities of being honest as one of the important bits of our relationship together.

“Faith is caught rather than taught, and children have a rather wonderful way of inquiring into the really big questions: why are we here, who is God, how do we pray, does it matter…? They also look at adults to see if the things that adults say are being put into practice, so in that sense they bring an openness and honesty.

“And the idea that faith is just an idea is not good enough, it’s actually lived and so that’s what’s happening here – they are practicing, living, and building trust in God and each other and trying to live in a complicated and uncertain world.”

For more on St Barnabas Primary Church of England School visit www.stbarnabas-erdington.com

BACK TO SCHOOL: Lisa Dodd, Headteacher at Osborne Primary School

Words by Gary Phelps / Pics supplied by Osborne Primary

As schools reopen after the half term holidays, Lisa Dodd, the new headteacher at Osborne Primary talks to Erdington Local about how she wants to lead a school that makes the students, parents, and staff proud.

Lisa Dodd started work at Osborne Primary School, on Osborne Road, just after Easter, taking the helm of a vibrant, happy, and diverse school of 370 children who speak more than 40 different languages.

Mrs Dodd has previously spent six years as the headteacher of Curdworth Primary School in Warwickshire. Both schools are part of the respected Arthur Terry Learning Partnership.

She said: “I’m so excited to get going at Osborne. I was appointed back in October and have been lucky to have had a really extensive transition from one school to the other, which allowed me to visit Osborne one or two days a week for the last few months to get to know the team here and the students.

“This was great because it meant that when I started I’d already learned some of the children’s names, met the staff and got to learn about the school, which has given me time to think about some of the things that I want to do going forward

“But most of my career I worked in Coventry at a school very similar to Osborne – in fact, most of the schools I have taught in have been city schools, with lots of children who have English as an additional language, so I’m trained to teach in city schools.

“I really, really enjoyed the time I had a Curdworth, and I learned a great deal there – but I felt that calling to come back to the city kids, and when this job came up it was perfect really. This school just ticked all my boxes in terms of what motivates me and what I’m really passionate about.”

Mrs Dodd said she is determined to tap into the talent of the school’s teaching staff to raise standards, while also engaging with the community around the site.

She said: “The building is beautiful and has so much potential, the children are wonderful and lovely and there’s some real talent amongst them and the staff are really passionate about the children they look after.

“I also know the staff have been through a lot of changes in a short space of time – the school has grown from one form entry to two form entry, we’ve had the impact of the pandemic and then the school has moved site too.

Already trying to meet as many parents as possible, Mrs Dodd and is keen to see Osborne Primary re-engage with the community again after the pandemic.

She added: “I’ve been out on the school gate and had the opportunity to meet parents, which has been nice. I think that one of the things that has happened to this school – and all schools, over the last couple, of years – is lots of the events and open days stopped because of the pandemic, and those are the things that give a school its heart, that connect it with the community.

“Our job now is to reopen our doors again and welcome the parents back in. We’ve got some ideas of things we want to do in the summer term, like having parents in for coffee mornings and holding workshops to talk to them about our new phonics scheme and meeting our new reception parents for September too.”

In recent years, Osborne Primary School has moved from a site on Station Road back into the original Victorian school buildings, which were for a time an adult education centre. While the building was completely refurbished before the switch, Mrs Dodd believes that there is still work that needs to be done.

She explained: “I think that, while the building is very nice, some of the areas were left a little unloved – like the playgrounds. There are many children who come to this school who live in flats and don’t have access to nice gardens and so we want the playgrounds here to have grass and colour.

“So, one of the things I’m trying to work on is how we can work develop the outdoor spaces. I just want the kids to be proud to come here; I want the parents to be proud that they send their children here. I want the staff to be proud that they work here.

“I want children to love learning and to love to come to school every day.”

For more on Osborne Primary School visit www.osborneprimaryschool.co.uk

BACK TO SCHOOL: Celebrating African culture (and staying healthy) with Ivory Coast dance workshops at Kings Rise Academy

Words by Ed KIng / Pics supplied by Kings Rise Academy

Children at Kings Rise Academy have been exploring and celebrating African culture – with two days of dance workshops from Gaspard Zamble, founder and director of the Zamble African Dance Company.

Children from all year groups at the Kingstanding primary school took part in the workshops, which explored a repertoire of the regional dances of the Ivory Coast.

The Ivory Coast (officially the Republic of Côte d’Ivoire) is a country located on the south coast of West Africa, with roots into some 60 distinct ethnic groups and one of the most varied and dynamic traditional dance cultures in West Africa.

Led by Gaspard Zamble, the African dance workshops gave children at Kings Rise a chance to try something they may never had experienced outside of the school – as well as giving them a fun way to exercise and encourage good health.

All ages took part, from the older pupils in Year 6 right down to the youngest children in Kings Rise Academy’s nursery and Early Years groups.

Kings Rise Academy has recently invested over £175,000 in a new nursery and Early Years setting, which will open its doors at the beginning of the new school year in September – offering the children of Kingstanding the best start to their education.

Kings Rise Academy Vice Principal, Gary Byrne, told Erdington Local: “The dance workshops were a lot of fun and a great way for the children to learn about African culture – Gaspard was amazing, and the children really engaged with him.

“The rich culture and history of the Ivory Coast is not something everyone would get the chance to experience, but now our young people have learnt a bit more about the world we live it – inspiring them the look further, explore deeper, and learn even more.

“Plus, as it’s dancing, it’s a healthy alternative to classroom based learning.

“Our children have done so well during lockdown but now we’re back together it’s good for them to work and learn together, in a way the encourages better health.”

Nursery and Reception places are still available at Kings Rise Academy, with open days on Wednesday 7 July and Thursday 8 July – limited places are available for other year groups.

To arrange visits on alternative days, simply contact the school office who will be happy to help – call (0121) 464 4635 or email kraenquiry@kingsrise.org

For more on Kings Rise Academy visit www.kingrise.bham.sch.uk