Theresa May Meets Our Ukrainian Students

We were delighted to welcome Maidenhead MP, and former Prime Minister, Theresa May on Friday 23 September where she met some of the 15 Ukrainian students currently enrolled at the school.  

Claires Court was approached at the start of the Ukrainian crisis by former staff and current parents, each with a personal connection with Ukraine.  They were collectively concerned that a school locally needed to be willing and able to take a large cohort of children all fleeing Ukraine, and from their connections with the school, felt that Claires Court would be well positioned to do so.  

Community is the absolute heart of who we are at Claires Court and we were determined to do our level best to help those students who had experienced such awful circumstances at home. Providing their education is only a small step in this process, welcoming their mothers so they feel included and welcomed has been important too. We seem to have provided them, and for many of their fathers back in Ukraine, with the comfort of normality and importantly, the stability of routine and friendship in school.

James Wilding Academic Principal

Mrs May was invited as MP for Maidenhead to speak to the students and understand first-hand the challenges that had faced them and their individual circumstances.  Mrs May started her visit in the newly furbished nursery school where the youngest child started age 3 and continued to meet Milana (Year 2) alongside her teacher and dedicated teaching assistant.  

The visit was very special for the children and Mrs May was presented with heartfelt gifts.  Three A-level students, Marina, Vavara and Daniela presented Mrs May with a Cyanotype print, framed and signed by the girls who are now learning subject based English to assist with their studies.  Daniela, who is studying Photography at A-level, also presented Mrs May with a print of a photograph she took of iconic Big Ben, now showing a Prussian blue clock face.  

The students within the school are supported by Ms Balynets, a qualified teacher & Ukrainian translator employed by Claires Court who also fled Ukraine as a refugee.  Introduced by a former pupil, Ms Balynets is concentrating on teaching English to the youngest students and offering classroom subject help throughout, specifically with assistance at GCSE & A-level.  

Mrs Rogers, Head of Sixth Form said,

In addition to the class work, Ms Balynets has been of great help acting as an interpreter between students, their mothers and the school to ease the transition between home and school.  She’s really helped to explain how the school works for them, so very different from their experiences in their home country.

Four of the senior students each took time to write a personalised letter to Mrs May outlining their experiences of the war and how this has affected them.  Mrs May read the letters from the girls when presented with them and asked them questions about their time at school.

This was, and still is, a national emergency and we want to mitigate the upheaval of moving to the UK as much as possible especially at such key points in the childrens’ education.  We have received invaluable assistance from our own community with our PTA being instrumental in this, alongside Goyals who provided their school uniform, and Hawkinsport who gave the children all their sports kit requirements.  

James Wilding, Academic Principal 

The school has actively supported raising money for the Ukrainian crisis, organising a whole school ‘own clothes’ day, cake sales, sponsored walks and ‘throw the sponge at the teacher’ raising in excess of £10,000 which was donated to the Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC).  On the same day, the Sixth Form students filled a bus with nappies, thermals and medicine, all gifted by the school community, that was donated to the Red Cross and dispatched across the border on the same day.  

It was our pleasure to invite Mrs May to the school to hear the real life stories of those in her constituency and to meet our Ukrainian cohort.  We were so glad that she expressed such an interest in the plight of our students studying here and the children were honoured to have been given the chance to speak directly to her.

Hugh Wilding, Principal and Bursar


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