Sameera Hussain first joined Migrant Help nearly two and a half years ago. One of the first meetings she attended was in the Birmingham Council House to discuss access to schools and education for children in asylum initial accommodation (at the time we no hotels were being used). To her surprise, she soon discovered that it was very difficult for children to get a school place, for various reasons. It was then that Sameera decided to change that. She made links with the local school admissions teams and together they looked at what could be done to make a change. Through their collaboration and consultations, they worked closely to form a very good working relationship.

Sameera has attended many a meeting, knocked on many a door and looked at numerous different solutions to better support families. One of which being an education centre for children and families, much like she saw in other regions. Luckily, following Sameera’s hard work, councils started to agree that something needed to be done together, and as of 8 December, the final city confirmed!

It was Wolverhampton City Council that led the way by stepping up and doing everything to fully support clients, helping to provide them with clothing, ESOL classes and school places, among other things. So, as soon as a family arrives the Refugee and Migrant Centre (RMC) completes the school/nursery admissions form, and a place is found within a few weeks. In addition, bus tickets and uniforms are provided to aid the clients.

Other councils also agreed to help support families, with Warwickshire Council committing to providing an onsite tutor, and have recently advertised this role. Meanwhile, Worcester Council have agreed in principle to support with school places and in January we are going into the hotel together to support parents with completing application forms and explaining the process.

Birmingham City Council have progressed massively since initial discussions were started over two years ago. In August, Birmingham City Council started to register children for online learning as well as providing laptops. However, they quickly realised this wasn’t working, so started to deliver education at The Kensington Hotel several days a week to the families, with the scope to expand this to other hotels within the city of Birmingham. They will continue with this until the end of the year but have agreed from January to support families in enrolling their children into school places as well as providing uniforms and bus passes.

Sameera says that although she knows this will take time and that they’ll need to get schools to individually agree to support, this is a step in the right direction and hopefully all students will be enrolled in school from next tear. The City of Sanctuary has already approached the Schools of Sanctuary, gaining positive response. However, some of these schools are too far out of the city, so Sameera said that they will need to try and find something closer first.

With all the councils finally agreeing to provide support, these families’ lives are going to be changed for the better, for years to come. On top of the access to education for the children, this support is going to help them in so many other ways including, but not limited to, safeguarding, mental health, community engagement and personal development.

So, this leaves us with massive congratulations to Sameera Hussain for all her hard work and persistence, as without her this would not be possible. She has changed the lives of so many, by providing children in initial accommodation and hotels with the opportunity of education, a feat that shouldn’t be taken lightly. Thank you everything you’ve done Sameera!