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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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:
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.
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
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
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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!