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Lake District church school wins top prize for Syrian refugee arts installation

Pupils and staff at a Church of England primary school are celebrating after their artwork based around the plight of Syrian refugees won a national prize.

Grasmere C of E (VA) Primary School's winning art installationChildren at Grasmere C of E (VA) Primary school displayed the work – Refugees in Art and Religion – in St Oswald’s Church, Grasmere, over the Easter period. His Royal Highness, The Prince of Wales, also viewed the installation during a tour of Cumbria in March.

Now the school has discovered it has been named a National Winner in the National Association of Teachers of Religious Education (NATRE) Spirited Arts Awards 2016.

Head Teacher Jo Goode said: “We are, of course, delighted but also despairing as the city of Aleppo is once again in the news.

“Highlighting the tragedy of the Syrian civil war and the resulting refugee crisis, this thought-provoking piece of work cut straight to the harsh reality of the situation, as perhaps only children can.”

The school was up against 200 others in the ‘It’s not fair! Faith and Justice’ NATRE Spirited Arts category and was one of four to be named a National Winner.

Their art installation featured a boat which hung from the rafters of St Oswald’s church to which pupils attached lifejackets and personal prayers to signify the human cost of the refugee crisis. The work also included a ‘soundscape’ which played on a continuous loop in the church and which featured the pupils reading well-known text, verse and prose as well as their own prayers, all intercut with news reports about the Syrian crisis.

The Year Three and Year Four pupils also drew inspiration from the Aleppo Crosses art installations in St Paul’s Cathedral as well as from the work of artist Arabella Dorman and her work with refugees.

Ruby, a Year Four pupil, said: “I feel so sorry for the Syrian children because they’re not safe. We are really safe and so I feel really lucky and really sad at the same time.”

“It’s not fair that refugee children have such different lives from us. We’re all the same – all children,” said Mya from Year Three.

And Year Six pupil Beren added: “I get really cross about what we’re spending money on and what our government put effort into. We should be making sure everyone has enough to be safe first.”

National Award winner certificates have now been sent to the school along with a prize winner’s cheque for £100.

A spokesman for NATRE said: “Judging the 2016 Spirited Arts competition was a tremendous challenge as the entries were of such a high standard. We were delighted to award Grasmere School the only group prize in the ‘It’s not fair! Faith and justice’, for their thoughtful and deeply moving response to the refugee crisis.

“Many teachers wrote to share experiences of the competition: it has an impact on standards, depth, creativity and enjoyment in RE for pupils aged from five to 18.”

All the winners and the full range of commended entries will shortly be available to view on the NATRE website at



For further information contact Dave Roberts, Diocesan Communications Manager, on 07469 153658, 01768 807764 or at


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