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Eight more schools in Belfast and Derry/Londonderry became Schools of Sanctuary at a very enjoyable ceremony and celebration.

The new schools are

Ashfield Boys’ High School

Botanic Primary School

Wheatfield Primary School

Dundonald Primary School

Euston Street Primary School

Blessed Trinity College

Scoil an Droichid

and in Derry/Londonderry –

Holy Child Primary School

There are now 50 Schools of Sanctuary in Belfast and Derry/Londonderry with many others keen to join this programme.

This morning we were joined in the magnificent Great Hall of Belfast City Hall by the Deputy Lord Mayor of Belfast, Alderman Tom Haire, Junior Ministers Gary Middleton and Declan Kearney, Barry Mulholland, Chair of the Education Authority, Dr Kieran Shields of the Intercultural Service of the Education Authority and Catherine Roulston, Principal of Blythefield Primary School, the first School of Sanctuary awarded in June 2017. Tiffy Allen, All Ireland Coordinator of Places of Sanctuary and an inspiration to us all drew the proceedings to a close.

Children from the new Schools of Sanctuary spoke before the Junior Ministers and the Deputy Lord Mayor presented the awards.

There was a great attendance by the Committee Members of Belfast City of Sanctuary and some of our members. Members of Belfast City of Sanctuary monitor the new Schools to confirm them as Schools of Sanctuary.

The Schools of Sanctuary programme is an award scheme being piloted in the Urban Villages areas of Belfast and Derry/ Londonderry with support from the Northern Ireland Executive’s Urban Villages Initiative, the Belfast City of Sanctuary Group and the Education Authority’s Intercultural Education Service areas. So popular and valued this scheme has become that some new schools awarded are now beyond Urban Village Initiative areas.

Working with the wonderful Intercultural Service of the Education Authority is always such a pleasure. This year has been particularly challenging for EA and for the schools. Usually schools would have 8 months to prepare for an inspection by teams of monitors from Belfast City of Sanctuary, but due to Covid 19, schools had a very short time in which to ensure that they complied with the strict criteria for the award. Schools worked towards presenting their portfolios which show various aspects of the school; that each one is a welcoming place for pupils and their families, where every child feels safe, where they are fully accepted and included. These schools become beacons in the community as places where cultural diversity is valued and celebrated.

We wish to thank Kieran Shields and Jane Camara of the Education Authority for the tremendous work they have done to promote Schools of Sanctuary over the past 4 years since we started this work.