Ukraine-Russia: First Ukrainian school to open for refugees in Scotland

The Ukrainian school will be the first of its kind in Scotland

A school set up 70 years ago to cater for Ukrainian refugee children who came to Britain during the Second World War is to open a branch in Scotland for the first time.

The St Mary's Ukrainian School in Glasgow will allow refugees who took shelter from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which began two years ago this weekend, to learn the language, history, geography and culture of their home country.

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The school, which will run on Saturdays in the building of St Mungo's School in Glasgow, will see children learn about Ukrainian literature, as well as music and art. Children who have suffered traumatic experiences due to the war will also be offered support.

Ukrainian refugees scattered across Europe after the outbreak of war.Ukrainian refugees scattered across Europe after the outbreak of war.
Ukrainian refugees scattered across Europe after the outbreak of war.

Classes for around 80 children aged five to 16 will start for the first time on March 9, staffed predominantly by Ukrainian teachers who are themselves refugees.

Orysya Novetska, head of the board of governors at the St Mary’s Ukrainian School in Holland Park, London, said the school would allow children, who have now spent a large proportion of their lives in Scotland, to practice Ukrainian and keep up with the Ukrainian curriculum to allow them to return home.

The UK government has now extended the Homes for Ukraine visa scheme, which gave Ukrainians the right to stay in Britain for three years, for another 18 months.

Ms Novetska said: “They came here nearly two years ago and some of the little children are beginning to forget their Ukrainian language. If they go back to Ukraine in two years’ time, or whenever that is possible, they need to keep their language level up to be able to go back into their age group at school there.”

She said the idea to open a school in Glasgow came from a Ukrainian priest working in the city, Father Andriy Chornenko, who realised there was a need for Ukrainian language provision for refugees in Scotland.

"He has been instrumental in setting up the school in Scotland,” she said. “It is also beneficial for the teachers. Not all of them speak English fluently, so they are not able to convert their teaching qualifications and work in school in the UK. This allows them to get back into the classroom and do what they love doing.”

In some other countries, Ukrainian communities have set up their own schools, rather than integrate into the local school system, as most have done in Scotland. Many Ukrainian children have been keeping up with the Ukrainian curriculum online, as well as attending school in Scotland.

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Before 2022, the original St Mary’s in London catered for around 250 children of Ukrainian decent living in the UK capita.

By August 2022, six months after the war began, more than 500 new children had registered, with around 1,000 anticipated for the following academic year. To accommodate the growing number of students, the school began to expand and now has 11 sites around the UK.

Ms Novetska said it was hoped a full-time Ukrainian language school in London would eventually be opened. "That is the dream,” she said.



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