The Linking Network supports schools and communities to develop a positive, cohesive ethos by helping children, young people and adults to explore identity, celebrate diversity, champion equality and promote community.

We do this through training, resources and programmes in schools.

We are a charity, rooted in Bradford and sharing what we do through our website and through a network of facilitators across the country.

Our Work

Over time we have developed a carefully designed school linking process which has been used across the country since 2007.

We have developed a process for supporting school culture and ethos through analysis of provision and impact on spiritual, moral, social and cultural development.

We write and trial resources that support primary and secondary schools to embed meaningful age appropriate work on identity, diversity, community and equality in their curriculum.

We work to connect excellent provision to schools through our SMSC Network and Primary Linking Schools Programme.


Our work centres around Four Key Questions:

Who am I? – exploring identity, including faith, as part of multiple identity
Who are we? – celebrating diversity, including similarity and difference
Where do we live? – promoting community and a sense of belonging for all: locally; nationally; globally
How do we all live together? – championing equality, challenging prejudice in all its forms and promoting active citizenship

Aims of Linking

  • To develop and deepen children and young people’s knowledge and understanding of identity/ies, diversity, equality and community.
  • To develop skills of enquiry, critical thinking, reflection and communication.
  • To develop trust, empathy, awareness and respect.
  • To provide opportunities for children and young people to meet, build relationships, work together and contribute to the wider community.
  • To provide opportunities for adults who work with children and young people to share good practice, increase understanding of the issues of identity and community in their districts and to broaden perspectives.

The Linking Network Principles

  • Safe but challenging processes
  • Rooted in the curriculum
  • Equitable benefits for all
  • CPD for teachers
  • Do no harm
  • Support from senior leaders
  • Promotes identity, diversity, community, equality
  • Time for reflection to embed learning
  • Children and young people at the heart

Central to our vision is that:

  • Children & Young People

    Children and Young People should learn to meet and interact with others in a variety of social settings, in order to deepen understanding and broaden perspectives.

  • Educators & Community Leaders

    Teachers and School Leaders should have the tools and understanding they need to change the culture of their schools and address prejudice, inequality and segregation.

Culham St Gabriel’s has supported Schools Linking in its work on spiritual, moral, social and cultural development (SMSC) in schools and colleges. We continue to have profound confidence in the knowledge, professional judgement, expansive energy and professional credibility of its staff and consultants who have worked on SMSC. We have an interest in continuing to work with  The Linking Network, particularly in the area of SMSC and its relevance to British Values and the new Prevent Duty.” – Mark Chater, Director, Culham St Gabriels, Oxford September 2015

The staff training that you delivered to begin the audit process was an incredibly impressive session. You are very happy to celebrate our achievements but also don’t shy away from those challenging conversations in order to help us to ensure that SMSC is truly outstanding. I have appreciated working collaboratively with you both. This piece of work has been a very powerful part of our school improvement.” – Sue Pierce, Headteacher, Hazelbeck School, Bradford, January 2016


The Pears Foundation

The Pears Foundation promotes understanding of key issues through research and education programmes. They drive engagement in social progress across the UK and globally, particularly in young people, and support organisations focused on wellbeing for everyone, especially those with a tough challenge to face. Their aim is to empower a global community of organisations and individuals, provide leadership and resources to break down the barriers to progress.

Pears Foundation’s generous practical support has made a huge difference to the Linking Network. Their commitment in providing long term unrestricted core funding, especially at a pivotal moment, gave us the confidence and space to develop our work. This freed us up to develop and test approaches to training teachers, modelling good practice and linking schools so that young people can explore complex questions of identity, diversity and community and how to live together well. We have been encouraged by the Pears Foundation’s practical, active engagement in our work, visiting school links, promoting our work to others and acting as critical friends.

                                                                                                                                                             Meg Henry and Linda Cowie, Directors

Culham St Gabriel's Trust

Culham St Gabriel’s is an endowed charitable trust dedicated to educational work in support of religious education (RE). We are committed to excellence in religious education for all learners. We support teachers by helping them to offer the best, high-quality learning experiences in RE and spiritual and moral development. We also support work that promotes the links between school ethos, values, leadership and school improvement.

School linking

‘The government is investing in The Linking Network to develop strong and positive links between schools and communities. The Linking Network works in partnership with local authorities and charities and the Schools Linking programme specifically brings together children from demographically diverse primary and secondary schools to explore identity, diversity, equality and community. The programme provides sustained opportunities for children and young people from different communities to meet, build new relationships, work together and contribute to the wider community. Since January 2017, over 400 schools in 20 local authorities have been linked, with over 17,000 pupils in over 600 classes developing sustained relationships. We will continue to fund The Schools Linking programme to develop and expand twinning of schools of different backgrounds.’ page 26, Chapter 3 Integrated Communities Strategy Green Paper

The Linking Story

In 2001 leaders from two primary schools, Girlington Primary School and Eldwick Primary School in the Bradford District began to work with Angie Kotler, a literacy consultant at Bradford Council to plan a series of thoughtful meetings through the year for classes from their school working with staff from Cartwright Hall Museum and Art Gallery. The meetings were carefully planned to include dialogue and to promote curriculum achievement in the context of identity, diversity, community and equality. Over the next few years more and more schools chose to join the project funded by Bradford Council and the Bradford Schools Linking Project was underway. The model was rolled out to Tower Hamlets and an evaluation of impact was conducted by Anni Raw.

In 2007 the Ajegbo report The Diversity and Citizenship Curriculum Review was published and Sir Keith Ajegbo was commissioned by the government to look at potential community cohesion programmes around the country. He was commissioned to scope out community cohesion programmes around the country to identify good practice and when he visited the Bradford Schools Linking project  he recommended the linking model should be rolled out. The Pears Foundation and DCSF jointly funded a new charity, named Schools Linking Network (SLN) to a roll the linking model out to 40 local authorities. Sir Keith Ajegbo was Chair of Trustees and Angie Kotler CEO.  The roll out was sucessfully undertaken in 5 waves from 2007-2010 led by Angie Kotler, Linda Cowie, and a team based in Bradford. Bradford Council continued to fund the Bradford linking work and in 2013 Joyce Miller took on the role of chair, Angie Kotler moved onto other work and Dave Norman took the role of CEO.

The national Schools Linking programme was evaluated by NFER in 2011 who found

‘the Schools Linking programme was considered to be highly cost effective in relation to the impacts and outcomes it achieved. The linking model can have a positive impact on many aspects of pupil’s skills, attitudes, perceptions and behaviours, particularly their respect for others, their self-confidence and their self-efficacy, as well as broadening the social groups with whom they interact. The sustainability of school linking is improved where conscious attempts are made to embed the learning across the school curriculum. LAs have a critical role to play in supporting the Schools Linking programme in schools through partnership working with advisors and schools at local level. The Linking Model can achieve powerful impact where pupils gain: Increased respect for others, self-confidence, self-efficacy. Increased knowledge and understanding of complex issues and willingness to voice opinions and listen to others, NFER, 2011′

The project has been identified as good practice during a significant number of Ofsted inspections and by headteachers and teachers who engage with it. The programme continues to evolve.