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Lincolnshire Gateway Academies Trust
Proud to be a member of the
Lincolnshire Gateway Academies Trust

Refugees hear Minister’s support

A government minister told students in a question-and-answer session that support for Ukraine was unstinting – and was surprised by refugees from the country being in the audience.

Financial Secretary to the Treasury, Victoria Atkins (centre) with Somercotes Academy Careers Leader Laura Brown (seventh left) and Principal Frances Green plus some of the students who attended the question-and-answer session.

Victoria Atkins, the Financial Secretary to the Treasury and Louth and Horncastle MP, was visiting Somercotes Academy as part of its Careers and Personal Development programme.

“Our support for Ukraine is unstinting,” she said. “Only this week, I was listening to Olena Zelenska, the wife of President Zelenskyy, address MPs in the House of Commons.”

Teaching assistant Karyna Bedrekovska and student Anhelina Vey were listening. They were joined by fellow students Arsenii Kovalchuk and Denys Maslianyi after the session to meet the Minister.

Ukrainian refugees (left to right) Karyna Bedrekovska, Arsenii Kovalchuk, Denys Maslianyi and Anhelina Vey meet Louth and Horncastle MP Victoria Atkins.

In total, seven Ukrainian students have settled in at Somercotes over the past few months through the Government’s Homes for Ukraine scheme.

Karyna, who came to the UK eight months ago and has settled in Louth, acts as an interpreter for the students in addition to her teaching assistant duties.

“It is so calm and cosy,” she said of Louth.

Karyna had been tutoring the Chinese language in Ukraine when Russia invaded.

“I had been thinking about a teaching job. When I came over here, this came up and I was pleased to be appointed. It is always nice to help someone.” The students said they had been made to feel welcome.

Denys, who is living in North Somercotes, said: “I like the school very much. It is really good and they are very kind and good people.”

Minister Victoria Atkins (centre), next to Principal Frances Green, with Ukrainian refugees (left to right) Karyna Bedrekovska, Arsenii Kovalchuk, Denys Maslianyi and Anhelina Vey.

Ms Atkins, who was elected to the House of Commons in 2015 and brought back into the Government by Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, said: “It was moving to meet Ukrainian refugees who, with their families, have made Lincolnshire their second home.

“It was lovely to hear the students say they had been made to feel so welcome in their communities and at school.

“Huge credit must go to Somercotes Academy and Lincolnshire Gateway Academies Trust for accommodating them and employing Karyna as a teaching assistant.”

Principal Frances Green thanked the Minister for her time and said: “Our Ukrainian students have adapted incredibly well after a traumatic time in their young lives and have brought something unique to our Academy community. They are brilliant and involved in everything we do.”

Mrs Atkins during the question and answer session.

Earlier, the Minister had faced some challenging questions.

Sophie Gill, 11, asked if she worried that, having made a decision, it could go wrong.

“I thought she answered truthfully and honestly,” Sophie said.

Topics such as ambulance queues, the economy, domestic abuse, climate and Covid were also covered.

Enzo Walmsley, 12, learned that the most famous people Ms Atkins had met were His Majesty The King and Barack Obama, the former President of the United States.

She invited the students to the House of Commons next year.

Careers leader Laura Brown was grateful to Mrs Atkins.

“It was a really inspiring session which, hopefully, has opened the eyes of our pupils and encouraged them to get more actively involved in politics at a younger age,” she said.

“Visits and trips on our Careers and Personal Development programme expose children to things they would not ordinarily have the chance to do.”

Mrs Atkins said: “The students were a credit to the school. I was impressed by the line of questioning – some tougher than the House of Commons! – and their enthusiasm.

“They showed a real interest and passion in current affairs and put their points across with eloquence and clarity. It was terrific that they were given the opportunity to have a voice. I look forward to hosting them at the House of Commons.”

Pupils keen to ask the Minister some challenging questions.

She said the Academy had changed so much since her last visit.

“I want to pay tribute to all members of staff at Somercotes Academy who make Somercotes a very special place to learn and study.

“I also applaud their efforts on switching their energy system from oil to sustainable sources.

“I understand funding was secured from the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) as part of its Public Sector Decarbonisation Scheme, delivered by Salix Finance, to switch to internal lighting to LED, put 359 solar panels on three roofs and install a huge heat pump.

“The Academy is part of the energy solution and all involved should be very proud.”