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Bradford Named First ‘College of Sanctuary’ in West Yorkshire

Bradford College is celebrating after being awarded FE ‘College of Sanctuary’ status. This is the first time a College in West Yorkshire has received this accolade from City of Sanctuary UK.

This highly sought-after title recognises the exceptional level of assistance the College provides to some of the most vulnerable learners seeking sanctuary in the city. The Adult and Community department was commended for its hard work to ensure an outstanding wrap-around support package is always available, offering help with new skills for employability, wellbeing, and cultural inclusion. 

The region receives around 13% of the UK’s Asylum Seekers, and migration data shows Bradford to be one of four locations to receive the highest proportion of these individuals (although this still represents just 0.46% of the district’s population). Supporting just one Refugee/Asylum Seeker student in 2010, Bradford College has now helped nearly 2,000 and is one of the largest support providers in the UK.

Kate Hart, the Project Lead at Bradford Schools and Colleges of Sanctuary, said: 

“We are absolutely delighted to give Bradford College the College of Sanctuary award following a rigorous appraisal process. Colleges must demonstrate three key things: learning about what it means to be seeking sanctuary; embedding concepts of welcome, safety and inclusion; and sharing that vision within the local community and beyond. Bradford College has excelled in all of these areas.” 

Support at Bradford College includes ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages) classes, help for those who have experienced trauma or who have complex needs, coaching to overcome specific barriers to learning, as well as helping individuals to develop the skills and confidence to apply for jobs, take part in interviews, and succeed in the workplace. 

Duncan Burnett, Curriculum Area Manager for Community and Distance Learning at Bradford College, said:

I was thrilled to showcase Bradford College’s excellent work as a community college. We support our amazing sanctuary-seeking students as well as all other communities across the Bradford District, either directly in our college or through collaboration with community venues and groups. This absolutely underpins our mission of ‘working together to transform lives.’” 

“This month, for example, we opened more classes for sanctuary-seeking students from Ukraine, bringing the total classes to six with around 100 students taking part in learning. We have already secured a number of good job outcomes from our initial group who have worked so hard to overcome language barriers to flourish in our wonderful city.”

The Ukrainian project is one of the latest examples of support offered to sanctuary-seeking individuals. The project runs in partnership with Bradford Council and the Ukrainian Club on Legrams Lane in Bradford. The already well-established Ukrainian community in Bradford helped identify the individual needs of newly arrived refugees.  These individuals benefit from language classes and training in specialisms like hospitality using the College’s Jo Cox Sanctuary Café for work experience, gaining industry qualifications, and practicing social skills. 

Duncan continued:

“Other highlights of our application included over 50 students voicing to the appraisal panel the opportunities, empowerment, and acceptance they developed by attending Bradford College. These represent just some of the thousands of students currently on programmes at the College who have been touched by issues around sanctuary seeking and are working hard to develop language and employment skills and move into higher learning or work.” 

Student Ali Ali from Afghanistan said:

When I came to the UK three years ago as refugee, I received a lot of support from different official bodies. One of them was Bradford College. It welcomed me so much and accepted me without problems and supported me to improve my English and helped me with cost of transport, so I thank it so much for all the help.” 

Alina Khan, Vice Principal – Equality, Diversity, and Inclusion at Bradford College, said:

“We’re thrilled to have been notified about achieving the award, especially given that last week was Refugee Week – a national festival which celebrates and acknowledges the contributions, creativity, and resilience of refugees and people seeking sanctuary. […] The College feels extremely privileged to be partnered with such an amazing organisation and to be recognised in this way.”

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