The Bolton Schools Linking Programme has grown over time since it began in 2013 and this year teachers from 32 different schools will lead links between 50 classes so that approximately 1,500 children will meet and work together, building trust, empathy and understanding. The programme is led and hosted by the Achievement Cohesion & Integration Service (ACIS), Bolton Council with support from The Linking Network. ACIS supports children and young people who are new to Bolton to access education and see linking as a crucial contribution to their work.
One established school link is between Brownlow Fold Primary School and The Gates Primary School. The classes involved in this link are Year 4 at Brownlow Fold Primary and Year 3/4 at The Gates Primary School. The two classes met for the first time during the Autumn term at Bolton College where they participated in a sports “festival”. This included communication and teamwork activities led by student facilitators from the college (and overseen by the college tutors). The two classes have kept in touch and are now looking forward to their next visit together in the summer term. One of the teachers commented on the link experience:
“The Schools Linking Project has been an enriching and fun experience for both myself and the children. They have loved getting to know their new friends in a new environment and I feel grateful to have had this opportunity to give the children a chance to meet and get to know people outside of school.”
The children said:
“We have loved making new friends and can’t wait to see them again in a few weeks. We enjoyed doing the sports activities at Bolton College especially football! What a great day!”
There is clear recognition from teachers and schools that this work is highly important, as these children are the future of a cohesive and successful Bolton. A wide range of providers including Bolton College, Bolton Arena, Octagon Theatre, Bolton Lads and Girls Club in Bolton support the Bolton Schools Linking Programme by hosting first meetings of the classes linking in a neutral space.
An exciting development this year was Bolton’s first parent linking, whereby parents from Kearsley West Primary and St Andrews Primary joined their children in a visit to an adventure park in Bolton. As well as all the fun activities, there was food and refreshments for the children, staff and parents. Hopefully, there will be more opportunities for parent linking in the future.
Nicola Mahon and James Orme, ACIS (Achievement, Cohesion and Integration Service), Bolton Council