Head challenges boarding schools to offer places to refugees

Head of St Felix School says offering just two boarding places each would help local authorities and offer children a new life

Head of Saint Felix School, Southwold, Fran D’Alcorn, has thrown out a challenge to her independent boarding school colleagues across the UK. She is asking them to join her in offering at least two free places to teenage orphaned Syrian refugees entering the country under the scheme being launched by the Prime Minister. 

Miss D’Alcorn acknowledged that the refugee crisis will not be easy to fix. Local authorities will have an immensely difficult time trying to place the young people in schools, with foster parents and in children’s homes. Working alongside the local community, boarding schools could offer solid pastoral support as well as a first-class education to some of the most vulnerable children entering the country. She hopes to initiate a debate with the Boarding Schools Association, the Independent Schools’ Council and the independent sector’s professional bodies who oversee independent schools to assess whether this idea could be a workable scenario. 

The Saint Felix community has always tried to support young people fleeing from persecution in their own countries. During the First World War, Miss Lucy Silcox, the headmistress at the time, had been involved in helping Serbian refugees. At Christmas 1938, Saint Felix opened its doors to a group of Kindertransport children escaping from Germany. During the Vietnamese ‘boat people’ crisis, the headmistress at the time, Miss Mary Oakeley, had offered to take children of desperate families into the school.   

If all the boarding schools in the independent sector agreed to support the initiative, then up to a thousand vulnerable and desperate children could be given the chance of a new life in this country. Robin Fletcher, National Director at the Boarding SchoolsAssociation, said: The Boarding Schools’ Association supports Saint Felix School and any other boarding school who wishes to provide places to teenage orphaned Syrian refugees entering the country under the scheme being launched by the Prime Minister. 

We know educating the next generation is key to the future success of any country, not least a war-torn country such as Syria.  Our boarding communities can provide a safe haven in which the refugees can have access to a strong network of pastoral support and structure including counsellors while continuing their education – arming them with future skills to fight back again the regime within Syria.

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