Harrogate school unveils library bus to support Syrian refugees and promote reading across all year groups

The new library bus arrives at Grove Road Community Primary School.
The new library bus arrives at Grove Road Community Primary School.
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With 25 different languages spoken at Grove Road Community Primary School, headteacher Chris Parkhouse is always looking for new projects to celebrate diversity.

Recognised for welcoming families from across the globe, including refugees and asylum seekers, Grove Road Primary was the first in North Yorkshire to be awarded 'School of Sanctuary' status last year.

Grove Road Community Primary School headteacher Chris Parkhouse with the School of Sanctuary certificate presented to the school and pupils last year.

Grove Road Community Primary School headteacher Chris Parkhouse with the School of Sanctuary certificate presented to the school and pupils last year.

Now, the school is launching a library bus to support Syrian refugee families with English language lessons, promote reading across all year groups, and encourage young translators who have been at the school for a while to support and mentor new pupils who speak the same first language - while forming friendships along the way.

The school aims for the bus to be a place where all pupils can enjoy reading, do group activities, and take part in story and word games.

Mr Parkhouse said: "Our school is one big family, and families don’t have borders. Since being awarded the School of Sanctuary status last year, we have welcomed two Syrian refugee families and one Iraqi refugee family to the school community.

"Supporting families who have been uprooted from a war-torn country such as Syria means that the children need time and support to become accustomed to a new community and adapt to a whole new way of life.

"They are not only learning to speak a new language, but are attending school for the first time in their lives and are faced with a huge cultural shift. For some, our priority is to simply help them feel safe and happy.

"We are very proud of supporting children with little or no English to settle quickly, form new friendships and make outstanding progress. I believe we are able to do this so successfully because of the inclusive ethos of all staff and, of course, the children.

"We are highly experienced in welcoming new families from across the world, and I think we are a bit like the United Nations of Harrogate."

Keen to strengthen links with the community as much as possible, Mr Parkhouse added: "As a school, we want to be a central part of the Harrogate community and support in any way we can. I believe our new library bus has great potential in achieving that goal.

"It is a big target for us to try and encourage parents to come to school a bit more to see what's happening, and the bus will hopefully be a great chance for them to come along and see what we are doing to promote reading, and for them to be a part of that. We want children to be excited about reading."

The school has also introduced a 'language of the month' to celebrate diversity, and this month it is Italian.

The bus will be open every morning and afternoon for parents and children to visit and borrow books, and will also be open for playtime and lunch breaks.

A party for parents and pupils celebrating the opening of the library bus will be held at the school on October 6.