The Waltham Forest Schools Linking Programme is led by The Faith & Belief Forum and was launched in 2017. The programme will soon be in its third year and currently has 14 classes on the programme; four secondary and ten primary, from a mix of faith and non-denominational schools. Waltham Forest SACRE have continued to be very supportive of our programme, encouraging our engagement with schools and also continuing to provide a free venue for our teacher CPD’s within the Town Hall.
The Schools Linking Programme aims to match students from different cultural or faith backgrounds to explore issues of identity, community and belief, based on their lived experience. Schools take turns to host their partner for the first or second link day, and many take the opportunity to include tours of or Q&A sessions in on-site or nearby places of worship. The third link day takes place in a neutral venue, a space mutually accessible and familiar. Spaces we have worked with include Lloyd Park and The Priory Community Centre.
Partnerships on this programme have benefitted from close proximity between partner schools. The localised model of the Waltham Forest programme has meant that teachers on the cohort have a great deal of crossover in their own school contexts and can work together easily. The relationships formed on the Waltham Forest Linking Programme have strengthened relationships formed through other local authority initiatives.
Teacher CPD Feedback:
Teachers on our CPDs said the content was ‘engaging’ and reported that ‘there were lots of good practical ideas and suggestions’. One teacher wrote: ‘great team – thank you!’ and others expressed feeling ready to take linking into the classroom.
There have been two fantastic linking partnerships between Al-Noor Primary and Our Lady and Saint George’s Primary. On the first link day between two of the classes, students explored their own individual identity before sharing their findings in groups. After several activities and play, the OLSG students were invited to watch the Al-Noor students pray. Teachers guided the students through this experience, encouraging respectful behaviours. Following this, they visited the small church in OLSG’s local area, where students held a Q&A and explored similarities and differences between their practices. This was an opportunity for students in both classes to increase religious literacy, as well as practice intercultural dialogue skills.
Pupils were enthused about learning more about Christianity, now that they have friends from a Catholic School’ Lead Linking Teacher, Al-Noor Primary
Our secondary school Links have also been beneficial for students and teachers alike. Holy Family Catholic School have been partnered with both Eden Girls and Norlington School. Teachers from all schools reported a growth in confidence, with students having the opportunity to come out of their shells and make new friends. Their careful planning and interfaith modelling meant that students were able to reach a depth and a nuance in conversation, in only a short space of time. Students came away from the Link day with statements of positive affirmation from their partners, as well as an increased awareness of their own, as well as shared values and aspects of identity.
‘It was an opportunity to learn how they are similar and different as well as what is important for their identity’ Lead Linking Teacher, Holy Family Catholic School
Contact:Evi Koumi, The Faith & Belief Forum:firstname.lastname@example.org