SCHOOLCHILDREN considered what it would be like to leave all their possessions behind and flee their homeland as they worked on a massive mural for their primary school.

The Drove Primary School pupils made the huge collage with refugees supported by the Harbour Project and Swindon City of Sanctuary helped by artists Nicky-Ann Walker and Rachel Pryor.

Unveiling the mural, Year 1 teacher Lucy Bailey said: “The children had such an amazing time working on it. We are such a diverse community, getting involved in this project was a really good way for us to show what kind of school we are. It sat nicely with our values as a school.”

Called The Journey to Safety and Welcome, the collage was started as part of this year’s Refugee Week celebrations in June.

It represents someone’s journey to Swindon from their home country. Dozens of footprints, left in paint by some of Drove’s youngest pupils, trudge along a winding path to Swindon. The path crosses a beach scattered with belongings and a patch of blue sea before arriving in the town.

Artist Nicky-Ann Walker said: “A lot of the conversations we had with children were to do with people setting off and the journey they went on. We explained how life jackets were left on the beaches.”

Pupils at Drove Primary School had been struck by how their young equivalents fleeing their home had been unable to take their belongings with them: “One boy said, ‘I can’t take a rucksack?’”

Asked which of their favourite things they would grab, children said they would take sweets, toys and even socks.

“We talked about how it would feel to leave them behind and what they would have to sacrifice,” Nicky-Ann added.

The artist said she had been most impressed by a section in the top left of the mural, a collection of buildings representing Swindon and surrounded by messages of welcome: “For the children it was about writing ‘Welcome’ in different languages, proving they knew more than one.”

Artist Rachel Pryor, who runs the art group at the Harbour Project and also worked on the mural, added: “I was so impressed how the children had thought carefully about the things and people they would miss if they became refugees. Developing empathy and compassion is such an important part of our human development whatever age we are.”

The mural was unveiled this week as teachers from across Swindon met at Drove Primary School to learn more about promoting an inclusive environment at their schools.

Annie Vickers of Swindon City of Sanctuary, which organised the event, said: “If we are serious about building an inclusive, welcoming culture it has to begin with us. In a school setting in particular, everyone has experienced that first day, everyone has experienced what it is like to be in a new culture.

“This project is a fantastic way of embedding it not just with a child, but when they’re going home and talking to their parents.”

Swindon City of Sanctuary is working with 10 schools, with each working towards a City of Sanctuary award recognising what they are doing to promote inclusiveness at the school and help their pupils understand more about the plight facing refugees and asylum seekers.