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The Academy of St. Nicholas recently welcomed over 60 Afghan students as part of the National ‘Warm Welcome’ Operation. The school has carefully introduced students to their new surroundings and ensured they feel part of the St. Nicholas community. They now have access to a bespoke curriculum which allows them to ‘flourish and thrive’ in line with the Academy’s vision and mission.

Outside of school, staff have taken students to visit the sights of Liverpool and have even helped develop their passion for cricket and football.

Operation Warm Welcome

In August 2021, the UK welcomed over 12000 Refugees from Afghanistan as part of the National ‘Warm Welcome’ Operation. Since the rising of the Taliban in Afghanistan, those who stood side-by-side with the UK in conflict, their families and those at highest risk were evacuated. The Government continues to support them in settling permanently, contributing to their communities and rebuilding their lives here in the UK.

Joining the St. Nicholas Family

When the Academy of St. Nicholas discovered that over 45 students were being homed locally and were looking for a secondary school, they were keen to help. Following an initial introduction with the young people, it became clear that they were desperate to start school and return to their studies as soon as possible. Initial fact-finding revealed that the young people had received variable levels of education and so the mission was on to find out as much information as possible to ensure each student had access to a bespoke curriculum which would allow them to ‘flourish and thrive’ in line with the Academy’s vision and mission. As a Christian Academy, it is essential that each child’s uniqueness is nurtured and celebrated and we continue to work with individuals to unleash their interests and talents.

Within two weeks, the students were starting an induction in the Academy. St. Nicholas hosted a ‘St. Nicholas Cares’ drop-down day to educate all students about the importance of positive mental health, self-worth, inclusivity and acceptance. The students were told about some of the experiences that the Afghan refugees had faced and the difficulties fleeing the country. This supported the students in coming together and welcoming the new students with open arms.

In the early weeks, it became immediately apparent that many of the students had faced traumas and experiences that some of us can only imagine. Many had arrived in the UK having left close family members including siblings and parents because they were unable to escape.

Getting to know Liverpool

The following weeks were like a whirlwind and a real learning curve for both staff and students! As the students integrated into the St. Nicholas community, we discovered more and more about their differences in culture and lifestyle. To support the students in settling into Liverpool and the UK, we introduced Citizenship as part of their curriculum. Students also visited Liverpool Museums as part of an ‘In my Liverpool home’ project. The students really benefitted from this day and found the experience fruitful. It was a lovely day for students to travel by train, have lunch and explore the city in which we live. This was well-received by students, as for some, this will have been their first trip into the city, and to a museum. All students and staff thoroughly enjoyed the day.

Passion for Sports

As students gained confidence in their new surroundings and developed new friendships, we explored which sports they were interested in. Both boys and girls were keen to tell us that they loved Cricket! This was a great opportunity to get in touch with our local cricket club to explore how the students might get involved. Within days, Aigburth Cricket Club contacted the Academy to invite all of the students for a session with their recently signed Afghan cricketers Zohaib and Zahir from Ormskirk. The children were kept busy by the enthusiastic coaches and have since joined as members. On the day, a student commented that playing cricket again made her feel ‘closer to home’.

The Academy works closely with Everton in the Community and their staff were keen to offer some bespoke interventions for the new students in addition to the ones they also provide across school. New students were given the opportunity to join EITC Youth Football club which is run in the local community. They were provided with kids and everything they might need to engage in the game. The boys absolutely loved this and are now keen Evertonians! EITC have also developed an ‘Equality Group’ with a range of students across the Academy along with the Afghan students, exploring ideas about culture, traditions and self-identify. All students are fully engaged with the programme.

Careers and Aspirations

Students have also been involved in International Women in Engineering Day where they participated in activities led by United Utilities. One student commented that she felt inspired by the day and was keen to pursue a career in Engineering and Science. She talked about never having experiences like this before and how fortunate she felt.

Part of the community

Since joining the Academy in December 2021 and feeling quite daunted by their surroundings, the students are now continuing to build their confidence and resilience. They have become particularly fond of the scouse accent and are picking up the dialect, using the term ‘fumin’ as they develop their use of the English Language.  The Academy continues to work closely with the students and their families to ensure they have everything they need to succeed in their education.

We speak to them regularly about their progress and how they are settling in. They tell us that the thing they love most about their school is the teachers as they are all so kind. They also love the food… chicken tikka, BBQ chicken and a Sunday Roast!

Many of the students have developed from shy, introvert individuals to confident and charismatic in the space of a few months. We look forward to watching them continue to flourish and thrive with us over the coming years.