Global Learning London promotes the values, aims and principles of global learning through all areas of education. Supporting schools in Tower Hamlets and across London, we work collaboratively and as a part of wider networks, to develop global learning in schools and communities. The Tower Hamlets Linking Project began in Summer Term 2018 and we now near the end of our second full academic year of successful linking.
Our work at Global Learning London focuses on local action for justice and sustainability in an increasingly interconnected globe. We work within and between schools to create collaborative, creative spaces where such action and conversation is led by children. Linking schools to this end has enhanced our practice, so that schools actually work together towards a common goal, rather than working in silos.
We are delighted to be continuing the Tower Hamlets Linking Project, with nearly 400 local children and their teachers benefitting from the work. Our programme links a range of settings including infant and nursery children, primary pupils and special needs students. The idea for linking special schools with mainstream schools came about as a result of discovering a hate crime statistic in Tower Hamlets –in 2017, 27 crimes were committed against disabled people. We felt that we must respond to this statistic positively and constructively, hence the idea to link schools. Our linking is going from strength to strength and we were excited to be engaging even more special needs students and teachers this academic year. We recently learned that there is an increase in applications to mainstream schools from special needs students, creating a need for teachers in mainstream schools to access the knowledge and expertise of colleagues who work with special needs children.
Many secondary schools have special needs classes and this provides a good starting point for engagement for a special school. A link between a special school class and a special needs class in a secondary school provides both sets of student the opportunity to encounter previously unknown people and get to know others beyond their own setting. It may provide the platform, with increased skills and confidence, to scaffold learners and their teachers into further linking activity.
A key element of the special school curriculum is developing Life Skills. These range from daily living skills through to community involvement and communication skills. The socially related skills such as talking to unknown people and knowing the facilities and opportunities in the local community offer many overlaps with linking activities. Students are able to put their hard practiced skills, developed through role play, discussions and class activities, to real life purpose through the link. As one special needs teacher says: ‘it is one thing to prepare in the class and practice, and another thing to actually go and do it’. Linking offers meaningful engagement with real people, living real lives, in real places.
For many special needs students opportunities to widen horizons and go beyond their daily lives are pretty limited. Linking offers the opportunity to develop relationships beyond their usual friendship groups and to experience engagement with difference in a safe environment, where their curiosity is welcomed and encouraged.
Learn more about our special schools linking here.
As an organisation that embraces diversity, we see it as our duty to come together to build a community that integrates different needs and abilities. Our challenge is to do this with criticality, so that we are not perpetuating a charity mentality. Rather, we are looking to engender an appreciation for the different ways each of us inhabits our shared world. Equally, we believe that everyone has something to offer when they are enabled, rather than disabled, by society.
Although our links have been paused throughout the Covid-19 pandemic we continue to support schools, particularly in fostering the long term relationships we know linking can afford. Our plans for the next academic year are to widen the scope and diversity of our links by including some North London schools.
‘Our children share the locality they inhabit. Linking has brought them into a space that uncovers the wealth of intangible diversity within this locality– the diversity of world views, of multiple solutions to a problem, of forms of self-expression.’
Alia Al Zougbi, Head of Global Learning London
Linda Barker, Consultant to Global Learning London firstname.lastname@example.org
Alia Al Zougbi, Head of Global Learning London email@example.com
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