PUPILS set to welcome young Ukrainian refugees to their school have said they "deserve" to be there.

Sending a message of hope to the youngsters, teenagers from Cantell School have spoken directly to the children fleeing Ukraine and are welcoming them with open arms.

The Bassett school is set to open its doors to a number of young people who have escaped from war-torn Ukraine.

It comes just days after Prime Minister Boris Johnson visited Southampton Airport and praised people in the city for their efforts in supporting Ukraine.

The school has a long and proud record of supporting refugees and asylum seekers, having already welcomed Afghan refugees into their community.

READ MORE: Ukrainian refugees welcomed to Southampton with open arms

With more than 1,200 pupils speaking over 57 languages the over-subscribed secondary is one of the most multicultural schools in the country.

Headteacher Harry Kutty said that educating children from Ukraine was an "absolute no-brainer," adding that young people at the school "know what is happening and care very much".

Students from Cantell have spoken out as the school readies to welcome their new students.

Community Mentor Paramjit Singh, 16, who came to the country 10 years ago, wanted to make it clear that the students would be "welcomed with open arms".

READ MORE: Couple who fled Ukraine with toddler are performing at circus in Southampton

"I would want them to have the same experience that I have had," he said.

Aizik Alex, 15, echoed the words of Paramjit and addressed the refugees directly by saying: "I am excited to welcome you to Cantell School which is a school of sanctuary and where you will experience a great deal of things in and out of the classroom.

"You deserve this as much as we do."

Polly Page, 15, said that she was "incredibly proud" and that it was "amazing that we can help as a school".

READ MORE: Thousands raised for victims of war in Ukraine via week of live music

Kaitlin Werrett added that she was "looking forward to meeting the new students and learning more about their culture" saying that it would "enhance the diversity of the school".

Mr Kutty added: "It was a no-brainer making ourselves available. We have done it before with Afghani refugees fleeing the Taliban.

“I was speaking to our Year 11 students, and I said that education is so much more than just qualifications, it is about being well-rounded and caring students, and what they do for the community.

“We have always got involved with trying to help people and adults, but our primary focus is helping children.

“Every single child, no matter which country they are in, has the fundamental right to education and we want to do as much as we can.

"What I can say is our children know, they care very much and they very much want to help.”

Looking at the city as a whole, Mr Kutty said he welcomed Southampton’s bid to become UK City of Culture 2025.

"Embracing different cultures and encouraging a genuine sense of belonging is at the centre of what we’re looking to achieve which is why the bid is so important to us," he said.

Its example in opening doors for refugees - including those from Ukraine - has won praise across the city.

Gemma Nicols, the Commercial and Marketing Director of Southampton UK City of Culture 2025 bid, said: “We are hugely proud of the work Harry and his team are delivering at Cantell School. 

“It’s a credit to everyone involved. More than anything the bid is about leaving a legacy of culture and belonging for our young people to enjoy and embrace. 

“Cantell are setting the benchmark very high indeed.”

The bid, if successful, could bring millions of pounds of investment to the city. Southampton is one of four shortlisted areas, including Bradford, Wrexham and County Durham.

For more information on Southampton’s UK City of Culture 2025 bid, visit: southampton2025.co.uk

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