Insight into a School Linking Journey

29/04/2018

It has been a particularly exciting year for two schools in Bradford whose Year 4 pupils have joined the Bradford School Linking Programme. The two schools in question, Heaton St Barnabas Primary School and Nessfield Primary School, formed a link at the start of the year with a mixture of emotions felt across the year group at both schools.

“I’m excited to meet new people and make new friends,” enthused one child, whilst another was slightly more apprehensive, “I’m a little nervous as I don’t know much about these children.

During the Autumn term, children at both schools explored their identity and started thinking about the similarities and differences between themselves and their link school, through the two key questions- Who am I? and Who are we? They each thought of curiosity questions to send to one another (burning questions that they wanted to ask to find out about individual children as well as their link school in general), and then wrote responses for one another. The image on the right is an example of some of the work children exchanged:

The children also wrote ‘I am, I wonder’ poems in class (which will be exchanged in the coming weeks) and sent class photographs to one another.

As the term progressed, any initial nerves felt by the children began to dissipate. The more work the children shared with each other, the more the excitement began to build towards meeting for the first time. Our intention, based in social contact theory, is that the preparation work that is integral to the linking process builds the sense of equal status and shared goals that form a key condition for effective social contact as well as laying the groundwork for easier meaningful interaction at the face to face meetings. We hope the children feel their collaboration has begun before they meet and that the process embeds imagined social contact that prepares the way for the link days.

Straight after the Christmas holidays, excitement levels at both schools were at an all time high, because the time they had been waiting for was finally very nearly here! The children were going to meet face to face for the first time at Nell Bank Outdoor Centre. A day before the visit, each link class skyped one another where smiles were exchanged and further questions were asked.

The morning of the visit arrived and there was a definite buzz in the air as the children boarded the coach for the journey to Nell Bank. “I couldn’t sleep last night. That happens to me when I’m super excited, I can’t wait!” chattered one child.

During the course of the day, the children took part in a range of activities where they had many opportunities to find out more about one another. Activities included a scavenger hunt, a woods walk and playing on the adventure playground but the purpose throughout was meaningful interaction between the two groups of children. Below are some photographs of the day:

The facilitators at Nell Bank have been partners in the school linking programme for many years and share the vision. They create multiple opportunities for children to find out as many facts as they could about one another by setting them questions to discuss as they walk including, favourite books, number of siblings, favourite puddings and superhero powers. It was great to see how well each link pair communicated with one another and even the shyest of children felt like they have a go at talking to their partner. One child commented, “Even though I did feel a bit nervous at the start of the day, it did make me feel better knowing that my link partner was feeling the same. Now that I’ve got to know my partner a bit more, I feel ok. I’m really glad I came today.”

Before long, it was time to say goodbye. One link pair decided to give each other small items that they’d found during the day, “We just want to have something to remember each other by.” Link pairs spent some time reflecting on their day before waving goodbye because it was time to head back to school. All in all a fantastic day was had by everyone, with one child saying, “It has been such a great day, I can’t wait to see them again.” Luckily they won’t have to wait too long as visits to both schools are in the diary for the summer term.

If you would like to find out more about the schools linking programme in your local area please see our website for email addresses of all the local facilitators in the network as all the areas are recruiting schools for September. If you would like to join the Bradford Schools Linking Programme please contact nahida.nazir@thelinkingnetwork.org.uk