You may have noticed this new logo on our letterhead and website. It was awarded for all the work that St. Mary's does with pupils, staff and parents to be a real community of welcome, inclusion and force for change with campaigns such as lowering British Citizenship fees for children, ending NRPF and campaigning against NHS migrant charging.
We are the first school in Lewisham to be given this award and we hope to celebrate this with the whole school community at a special event in September!
You can read more about us here;
Some of our amazing children took part in a Zoom meeting with the Home Office to discuss and give their views on a range of issues related to NRPF, Immigration and British Citizenship.
They were given the opportunity to talk about how these issues affect them and their families. In addition they gave their views on how unfair they felt the system of applying and paying for Child British Citizenship was and some of the problems their families have encountered when dealing with the Home Office such as language or delay.
When asked to name an animal that they would associate with the Home Office one of our children said a lion because one little thing might really upset the lion causing him to roar or bite unexpectedly.
The purpose of the consultation was for the Home Office to listen to children, to hear their views and to make some changes accordingly. The children made some great suggestions for improvement including the use of translators, simplifying language used in forms and letters, being fairer and transparent to all who use the Home Office and maybe letting parents pay fees in instalments.
We are so proud of our children who displayed all the values we talk about in school including responsibility, respect and community. The children have received certificates from the Home Office for their contributions.
Every year a cohort of trainee students come to St. Mary's and work with our pupils on a project that they feel passionate about in the social justice arena. Covid 19 was not going to put a stop to that this year and we were lucky enough to have 2 students in class and 2 students who appeared remotely.
This year it was the subject of how families without settled status may be charged for secondary care and how unfair this is. Year 6 did a number of roleplays to understand the different scenarios and how people may be treated. They also found out that sometimes the wrong information can be circulated. Did you know that everyone is entitled to GP care or emergency treatment regardless of status or whether you have a fixed address? Did you know that everyone is entitled to receive free vaccinations for Covid 19?
Year 6 then created some fabulous illustrations of what they had learned to be used in a future information booklet for use across the borough!
You may have spotted some new signs in Romborough Way to encourage parents to park elsewhere, to make the road safer for children crossing and waiting outside school. Only 4 people out of 12 on the school council currently walk to school. 9 said they could walk to school if they left a little earlier. Imagine if that was replicated on a whole school scale where three quarters of us walked to school! The School Council have decided that they will be starting a new campaign called Walk to School to encourage everyone to walk, scoot or cycle to school. This not only helps improve safety and pollution but also makes us all fitter and healthier which can only be a good thing. Now that the weather is getting brighter and warmer why don't you try walking to school?
We have donated several computers to our link school in Ghana and we received this lovely message from one of the students:
“I feel so humble to write to you, expressing my firm gratitude for the amazing gift I received, it's quite overwhelming to feel loved. I write to appreciate you for the gift of a Computer. I am in my second year of senior high school, and at first, it was very difficult as a student to study only theory aspect of I.C.T. without practicals, and also not able to explore in different fields of study through online platforms. I assure you that providing me with this opportunity will not be wasted. I cannot thank you enough for giving me a leg up in starting this new phase of my life, thank you for supporting me in this regard. I am truly aware that your reward is great in heaven. Love, Atoore Pascal.”
St. Mary’s has done a lot of work with children, parents and staff around issues of welcome, sanctuary and justice for all who are part of our community. We are working towards becoming a School of Sanctuary but… what is a School of Sanctuary?
St. Mary’s have already signed up to be a supporting organisation with the City of Sanctuary and we have committed to the City of Sanctuary pledge which will be displayed in our front reception office;
“We support the ‘City of Sanctuary’ vision that the UK will be a welcoming place of safety for all and proud to offer sanctuary to people fleeing violence and persecution.
We endorse the City of Sanctuary Charter, and agree to act in accordance with City of Sanctuary values and apply the network principles within our work (as far as our specific context enables us to).
We recognise the contribution of people seeking sanctuary. Sanctuary seekers are welcomed, included and supported within our context. We expect our branches or local groups (if any) to support their local City of Sanctuary group if one exists, and will facilitate contact between them and their local City of Sanctuary group.”
Our Year 5 & 6 children have been doing some real courageous advocacy! After hearing that some people without settled status are getting charged for routine operations at hospitals including Lewisham, they decided to create some Christmas cards to the CEO Mr Travis with a strong message. The cards were then delivered by some of the children to the hospital with a naughty or nice bag. It is amazing to see our children campaigning for a more just and fair system for all.
Many families at St Mary's will have received a food bag over the past few months and more recently some families have received food vouchers to help with shopping costs. This has all been thanks to Reverend Charles - a long time supporter of St Mary's school and his new charity called Projectfivek, which aims to feed those families who might otherwise struggle to make ends meet. We are so grateful to Charles and his wife for their hard work and support of the families in our school this year. They really have made a difference!
"The vouchers have been very useful, they have helped to put food on many families’ tables. The food makes a real difference to families’ lives. We would like to thank Reverend Charles."
Parent of a child in Year 6
We are very proud of our children, parents and staff who continue to campaign and fight for equality and equal opportunity for all. St Mary’s continue to work closely with Citizens UK to ensure that our voice is heard and that we achieve real change. We have joined a new campaign, building on our previous success in enabling thousands of NRPF families to access Free School Meals:
Nobody should be left behind – not now, not ever! Time to end NRPF for good!
Covid-19 has shone a brighter light on the injustices that many migrants face. Many of our neighbours are unable to access government help because of where they were born, and the immigration papers they have. This is because of a government policy called No Recourse to Public Funds (NRPF) that denies people living and working in the UK crucial forms of support from the government. Without assistance like Universal Credit and housing benefit, many people – including 100,000 children – are feeling stranded and left without a safety net.
Thanks to the generosity of St. Mary's parish, Citizens UK are continuing to work at St. Mary's with both pupils and parents. Hannah from Lewisham Citizens came in to visit Years 5 and 6 to talk about what community campaigning is. To illustrate this she asked Mrs Tildesley to sit on a table. Then Hannah asked what the pupils felt strongly about and asked them to try and lift the table single-handedly as a symbol of trying to make a change. Of course no-one could lift Mrs Tildesley and the table single-handedly, but working together the pupils did achieve their task. Working together we can make a change!