Click for the next page!

Vision & Action is edited by Alison Closs and produced by Gina Reddie.

Any enquiries about this publication should be directed to the Anti-Bullying Network on 0131 651 6103.

Vision and Action is published on an occasional basis to illustrate how schools that have already developed and continue to maintain a positive ethos use this to cope with a particular event or unusual demand made on their school community. The first issue of this session, in October 2001, described how a special school coped with its relocation to new premises. This issue describes how Saint Paul's RC High School in the City of Glasgow welcomed Asylum Seeker pupils into its school community.

St. Paul's RC High School, 36 Damshot Road, Pollok, Glasgow G53 5HW. Contact: Rod O'Donnell, Headteacher
Tel: 0141 582 0040, Fax: 0141 582 0041
Email: stpaulshigh@glasgow.sch.uk

Introduction
Saint Paul's RC High School is located in the Pollok area of Glasgow where it has served the local community for forty years. Previously known as Bellarmine Secondary, the name change was agreed to coincide with the school population moving into a completely new school in May 2001 (see Picture 1). The school bases all its efforts on the values of the gospel and the teachings of Christ and we have all - pupils, families, regardless of their own beliefs, and staff - worked hard to develop and maintain a positive ethos over the years. While being realistic about the hardships that often face some members of the community, we feel that part of the school's role is to focus on positive and hopeful aspects, to demonstrate our belief in the positive potential of all our pupils. Our weekly whole-school assemblies focus on this and teachers have high expectations of pupils.

While some of the benefits of this cannot be measured, we can point over the last three years to improved attainments at all stages in the school, improved attendance and dramatically decreased numbers of exclusions. We have a particularly ambitious and successful collaboration programme with our feeder primary schools through which primary seven pupils spend large parts of their time working within St Paul's and one of our Assistant Headteachers is actually designated 'AHT P7/S1'. The Primary-Secondary 'divide' evidenced before in loss of Primary pupils' confidence and learning momentum in the transition to Secondary is no longer in evidence.

New session, new building, new pupils
The excitement engendered by this move into a school that is second to none in terms of the quality of the building, the environment of the new campus, the classroom provision, ICT for the 21st century - is easily imagined. That excitement was maintained throughout the summer holiday period and the anticipation in the local community was at a peak as the new session approached. It was time for a real start in the wonderful new school.

As Pollok moved through summer with this sense of a new beginning, the City Authorities were handling increasing numbers of Asylum Seekers arriving in Glasgow. Pollok and other nearby areas speedily took in Asylum Seekers over the summer holiday period.

During the holidays, the Head Teacher has met with senior officials to determine whether Saint Paul's High had sufficient accommodation to be considered as the City's seventh secondary to reeive Asylum Seekers' children. That presented no obstacle. A further procedural meeting with key staff from the City's Asylum Seeker Support Unit established basic, early steps that would be essential.

Staff returning to school in August arrived, therefore, not only to the exciting new school but also to the added challenge that - within days - the school would be welcoming a substantial number of children from a range of countries. These children and their families would need the greatest support possible from the whole school and its local community.

Essential preparation
The original In-Service programme for Day One had been significantly amended to allow staff to absorb and discuss the news and to include a one hour slot when all staff were addressed by the City's Asylum Seeker Support Unit colleagues on the main issues that were likely to emerge. The tone at all meetings was completely upbeat and this has been maintained throughout the school community since. The school had a new challenge requiring its commitment and energy. It came at a significant time in the school's life and added to the excitement that the school was experiencing. We felt that it was our privilege to be offered the opportunity to reach out to children in a state of vulnerability beyond our normal comprehension.

The challenge was to address a whole range of issues speedily, effectively and sensitively. The aim was simple - to enable the Asylum Seeker pupils to feel that they were 'our' pupils as quickly as possible, to move through arrival and integration and for the school to achieve inclusion so that the newly arrived children became Saint Paul's High pupils - not Asylum Seeker pupils. Key steps in the process were as follows:

Preparing the school's existing pupil population
Assemblies were held for each year. The Headteacher took these of the Depute, both assisted by a member of the Asylum Seeker Staff who had joined the staff in anticipation of the new pupils' arrival. Rumours and myths were dispelled and the school's expectations clearly stated. Pupil reaction was excellent - 'How can we help?' was a recurring question. PSE classes focused on the issues surrounding Asylum Seekers.
Preparing parents - previous and new
A letter from the Authority's Director was sent to all parents. The Headteacher enclosed a personal letter to parents, building on our already established strong parental links with the school to encourage a welcome for the new pupils and their families. Letters were sent, drawing on the Authority's Asylum Seekers bank of support materials, to all the parents of the new pupils in their family languages, welcoming them and inviting them and their child to an enrolment meeting.

Enrolling pupils
Enrolment experiences would be critical in forming Asylum Seeker pupils' and their families' views of the school. All five Senior Managers were involved in enrolling our new pupils. The process was prioritised to allow pupils into the school as soon as possible. The previous circumstances of their departure from their home countries and arrival in the UK had denied them education for significant periods.

Senior Management ensured that someone was always available to enrol our new pupils as and when the parents came to the school even though parents and pupils did not necessarily keep to appointment times. They had many new things to which they had to adjust but the school's commitment was that everyone would be enrolled whenever they appeared. Time for each enrolment was 'sacred'. Each individual case required time for every parent and pupil to feel welcome, comfortable, well informed and really secure about the school. The School Office staff played a vital part with one designated member responsible for all Asylum Seeker administration and organisation. This proved essential as it guaranteed consistency and continuity. Senior Management enlisted the help and support of the City's Asylum Seekers' Project staff who had expertise and experience that proved invaluable.

The appearance of belonging
The school's pride in its pupil-designed uniform enabled additional uniforms to be given to all new pupils. This is in line with existing policy of presenting all local S1 entrants with the uniform. All the new pupils wear it with great pride and affection (see Picture 2).

The process of inclusion in the pupil community
On enrolment, pupils were immediately involved in Registration and in Year Assemblies while working in the Asylum Seeker Unit for specific language development and for assessment regarding mainstream provision.

An Assistant Head, already responsible for all areas of inclusive education, was also in charge of the key issues relating to the new pupils. In particular, he is responsible for processing the pupils from the Unit into mainstream classes. Curricular integration was arranged carefully - but took heed of the pupils' own desire to be in as many subjects as possible (see Pictures 3 and 4). Authority advice on staged curricular inclusion was followed, beginning, for example, with PE and Art where language barriers possibly presented fewer obstacles. The subject specialist expertise of one of the Unit Staff in Science was used to extend these opportunities for the new pupils to learn alongside their peers. The shared learning experiences also enhanced relationships between the Asylum Seeker pupils and the local pupils and clearly strengthened positive inclusion - a mutual process.

Guidance staffing was increased by the Authority and was re-arranged within the school so that all Guidance Staff work with and support the new pupils. The Authority's organisation of interpretation services has been useful in assisting discussions where 'specialist' language was essential - mainly in curriculum discussion.

The arrival of the Asylum Seeker pupils coincided with preparations for the Official Opening of the new school - an ideal opportunity for involvement of previous and new pupils. This was clearly grasped by the school choir, although it has to be admitted that this has a gender bias with a larger female representation!

Picture 1: Pupils, staff and families are delighted with our state-of-the-art school and its green areas.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Picture 2: Pupils wear their uniform with pride

 

 

 

Picture 3: Sometimes occasional, friendly, small-group working can help students who are more reticent in their larger classes.
Picture 4: What all our new pupils wanted was to be fully integrated in their own register and subject classes - to belong fully - as soon as possible.

 

  Don't forget to turn the page for more of this Vision and Action. Use the forward arrow to the top right of this page!