In all the years I’ve been a teacher, with all the challenges and endeavours I’ve faced, welcoming Ukrainian children has to be the most rewarding to date. The way Solihull School as a community has opened its humanity to them is something that brings me immeasurable pride.
Overall, we have been able to offer 10 Ukrainian refugees fully-funded places across both campuses. These pupils come from locations throughout Ukraine, including Kharkiv, Odessa, and Kherson.
These pupils are staying with local families, some known by the school prior, some not, and one is even being sponsored by members of staff at the school.
Some have come to England accompanied by one or two parents, and some completely alone. It has been heart-warming to watch these young people grow in confidence and general well-being in the short time they’ve been with us. I was assigned the privilege of over-seeing their transition to school life, which has been a challenge, but mostly, a joy.
“It has been heart-warming to watch these young people grow in confidence.”
They have been able to go on school trips (including some overseas) and taken part in additional English language provisions – with our older pupils studying for IELTS qualifications. They’ve joined in a vast array of extra-curricular activities, and just been able to focus on being young people in school again. They have even helped to educate our pupils about Ukraine by planning and leading a special Ukrainian Christmas service back in January, and by presenting to their peers about their experiences.
The school and the pupils’ sponsors have done their best to help these families integrate into the local community by running summer schools, church services, and by introducing them to people in the area – both Ukrainian and British.
“One pupil is even being sponsored by members of staff at the school.”
Collectively, our Ukrainian pupils have enhanced almost every aspect of the school, but mainly the music department (via clubs, orchestras and musicals), the maths and science departments (via clubs and competitions), the art department (via work and displays), and the sports department. The best way to understand their experiences, however, is through their own words:
“My teacher is Mrs B. I like her. She is kind and she helps me. When I got to school, I didn’t know English. Now my English is perfect! I have worked hard and now my speaking, reading and writing in English are good. I have had some extra help from Rev. R and Mrs Bn. My friends have helped me with my speaking. I am arty and musical. I sing in the choir. My favourite day is Thursday because we have PE and Art.” – Pupil, age 9.
“The courtesy and kindness of the people who met me at Solihull School greatly surprised me, and also gave me another reason to hope for my opinion of humanity, which before this school seemed doomed for me. Participation in clubs, classes and other social activities help me fight my fear of public speaking, which I am only glad about. It’s better to be afraid of speaking in public or a test, rather than really scary and dark things that I saw in action before my eyes. I bring thousands of thanks to this wonderful school, its students and teachers, who support me and many other Ukrainians in such a difficult period for us.” – Pupil, age 14.
“Solihull School supports us. We can always get additional advice and teachers often explain the context of the task if I don’t understand. Our tutors provide great support to make friends at school and integrate into the new school system. I have opportunities to visit maths and physics clubs, also CCF and drama costumes club. I really enjoy all of them.” – Pupil aged 18.
As the war in Ukraine rolls into its second year, we’re working hard to support our Ukrainian pupils in the sixth form to think about their post-18 educational options. The prospect of applying to universities in this country was not something they thought they would face when they arrived, but this is now a likely option for some. One of our pupils has even enrolled in our Oxbridge programme and is hoping to visit Girton College, Cambridge, later this term.
I am incredibly proud of our school and its pupils for all they have done to help these people in need.