A North Yorkshire primary school with a global vision has become the first in the country to earn gold status in an accreditation scheme recognising schools’ work to tackle global injustice.

From writing letters to welcome refugee families in Northallerton and holding a ‘Walk 4 Syria’ event to donating food to help local people in need, pupils and staff at Knayton Church of England Academy have been working hard to develop global awareness and tackle poverty.

The rural school near Thirsk discovered this week that it has achieved Gold Award status in Christian Aid’s Global Neighbours accreditation scheme and will be presented with the certificate by Caroline Weir, Education Coordinator at Christian Aid, in a special assembly on Friday 7th December.

Hannah Spencer, Professional Leader of RE (PLRE) and Global Education Lead at Knayton said: “It’s amazing to know we are England’s first Gold award! – I am thrilled that the whole school community has been recognised in this way for its work to raise awareness of the extreme inequalities across our globe and perhaps more importantly, the steps we can take to address them.

“For example, we welcomed a refugee visitor into school to tell us about the challenges faced by refugees and staff from Hambleton Council also came in to run a workshop on homelessness.

“These visits helped to do some ‘myth busting’ and the pupils were keen to support refugees who have settled in our locality. We organised a ‘Walk 4 Syria’ event to raise awareness of what life is like for refugees and to raise money for The Halo Trust which removes landmines left behind from war.

Pupils at Knayton are encouraged to consider their role as agents of change and they regularly look for ways to make a difference outside school as well. For example, some of our pupils have donated their hair to the Little Princess Trust and others have given money to homeless charities. We took part in Christian Aid’s scheme because it gives us a practical way of living out our schools Christian values of ‘kindness, friendship and respect.

“Our world is increasingly connected and our hope is for our children to grow as responsible global citizens who care about issues that impact on people and the planet. The children have especially enjoyed our ‘We can Change the World’ whole school Big Idea and the global learning we did as part of ‘Being British’ on homelessness and the refugee crisis. Our ks2 children also love writing to their Kenyan Pen Pals on our blog. To have friends in such far away places is really special.

Caroline Weir, Education Coordinator at Christian Aid, said: “The Global Neighbours Scheme was launched in partnership with the Church of England’s Education Office with a vision of helping young people understand more about the inequalities in this world and helping them to become courageous advocates for those who have no voice.

“It’s wonderful to see how staff and pupils at Knayton have taken this to heart and are seeking to tackle injustice. We are delighted to be awarding our first Gold Global Neighbours accreditation in the whole country to Knayton Academy and to celebrate this significant achievement with them. We set the bar high and it is a testimony to their vision and creativity that they have been able to succeed at such a high level.”

“Christian Aid is also looking to recruit more volunteer teachers locally to go into schools to help us deliver the scheme. If you have experience of working with children and are excited about inspiring a new generation of agents of change, we would love to hear from you!”

Any primary school in England can join the Global Neighbours scheme. There are three levels of accreditation: bronze, silver and gold. These are verified by Church of England Education Office assessors, who look for evidence across five areas: school leadership, teaching and learning; collective worship and spiritual development; pupil participation; and community engagement.