Schools Linking and Social Cohesion: An evaluation by The Centre for Peace, Trust and Social Relations, Coventry University July 2018

2017-2018 The Centre for Peace, Trust and Social Relations, Coventry University was commisisoned by MHCLG to conduct an evaluation of the National Schools Linking Programme.  Associate Professor, Dr Chris Shannahan conducted the evaluation from March 2017 until July 2018.   The evaluation is available to download in full here and we have produced summary extracts for schools and facilitators and also a summary extract for funders and local authorities.

 

Extracts from the Coventry University Evaluation of Schools Linking July 2018.

‘The Linking Network schools linking enables children and young people to explore identity, celebrate diversity, build community and champion equality through the development of mutual understanding, critical awareness and openness, empathy, respect for difference and active citizenship.’ 

The Linking Network was established and is run by experienced classroom teachers who provide relevant and informed Continuing Professional Development, learning resources and activities. It aims to build sustainable schools linking that is locally owned through a hub and spokes networked approach, whereby the central team facilitate, guide and enable the development of schools linking that emerges organically in different parts of England – local linking with national backing.

The Linking Network provides teachers with a tried and tested means of addressing key issues in Spiritual, Moral, Social and Cultural aspects of learning, exploring citizenship, reflecting on ‘British’ values in an inclusive way and modelling future citizens. It provides an effective means of building inclusive patterns of social cohesion amongst children and young people and has the capacity to raise achievement.   

The Linking Network establishes purposive, facilitated and sustained classroom-based contact between children and young people from different geographical, ethnic, religious and socio-economic backgrounds.  Schools linking is recognised and funded by the Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government, DfE and Pears Foundation as a means of fostering improved levels of social cohesion at local community level. 

‘TLN’s use of Contract Theory is tailored to the schools linking context and serves as a useful, and respected, theoretical underpinning of their work.’

The Linking Network has exceeded all targets set by funders to date, not only in numerical terms but in being a growing programme, reaching more locality areas, phases of pupils, types of schools, including special schools, and working beyond the school gates in the community.  School linking does not occur in a vacuum.

‘Contemporary schools linking relates to far more than ethnicity and seeks to foster dialogue and greater mutual understanding around a wider cluster of expressions of difference, including faith/belief, social class and urban, suburban and rural communities.’ p11

‘One of the defining features of TLN’s model of schools linking is that it is thoroughly informed by practice.’ p15

‘It has become clear during the evaluation that TLN schools linking has had a significant positive impact on pupils, teachers, schools, local linking programmes, the development of new partnerships, community relations and local authorities since its establishment in 2016. It has enabled schools to improve achievement levels and meet their Ofsted responsibilities in relation to SMSC, ‘British’ values and Prevent obligations.’ p46

‘The TLN staff team act as a hub at the centre of a dispersed linking network, which exists to enable and resource the organic and contextualised growth of locally appropriate linking,’ p11

‘The Linking Network is an increasingly respected partner in current debates about diversity, integration and social cohesion amongst policy-makers and academics.’

‘the track-record of The Linking Network as a pioneering approach to building social cohesion through schools linking has been recognised by national think-tanks and policy institutes.’

‘[TLN’s] originality and success rest on its relational, democratic and networked approach.’

‘This action/reflection model of schools linking has the potential to contribute substantially to the professional development of school teachers.’

‘Schools become involved in linking because they see it as part of their moral compass.’ p46