School Linking is an exciting education programme that brings together children from different schools, who may not normally have a chance to meet, to learn and have fun together. What Dr Cameron loves about Schools Linking is that it shows how psychological theories, like contact hypothesis, can be used to create effective, cutting-edge education programmes that impact on children’s everyday lives. Through Schools Linking, children gain new friendships, build a sense of togetherness with other children, develop trust, empathy, awareness, and respect for others.
“I genuinely think that linking can make the difference between a happy and an unhappy child” (Linking Teacher)
This week it’s Schools Linking Celebration week, when schools across the country will celebrate and share stories of linking. At the heart of their activities, they will be exploring the question: How do we all live well together?
What can Schools Linking teach us about how we live well together?
- Exploring and sharing who we are makes us stronger
‘it really gave them a chance to talk about themselves and how they see themselves, which maybe they hadn’t been able to before. Plus, also, it gave them a whole new, … skill set; for a couple of mine (Linking) actually gave them the confidence to share information that maybe they hadn’t wanted to share before’ [Schools Linking teacher]
Disclosing personal information about ourselves is one of the bedrocks of friendship. It requires space and time, and trust, which Schools Linking activities provide. This boosts children’s confidence in talking about themselves and builds stronger relationships.
- Sharing and celebrating what we have in common helps children to connect
Connecting with people we have things in common with is important for creating a feeling of belonging and self-worth, and positive attitudes to diversity. Teachers tell us that through Schools Linking, children enjoy making new friends and discover things they have in common, particularly those children who struggle to make friends and socialise.
“there were children that struggled perhaps to mix, but actually just found people there that they really got on well with and formed quite a strong bond with”
“(children)… realise that they have got so much more in common – it is only small… things but it … makes a really big difference.”
- Appreciating difference and what makes us distinctive is important for living well together
Where there are differences it’s important to listen, understand, respect and appreciate them. Children who are more open to difference and other cultures, are more inclusive in their friendship behaviours. Schools Linking provides opportunities to explore and appreciate difference.
‘(the children) were able to talk about and communicate with others… what’s important to them and why. And then they were able to appreciate from one another, what is important to other individuals, and what’s different, and what’s special about them.’
- Encouraging friendships
Friendships are the cornerstone of creating stronger communities, they can combat negative attitudes to difference. Schools Linking teachers think Linking from a young age helps children resist negative attitudes. Schools Linking provides genuine opportunities for young people to form new friendships with children who are different to them in some way, and teachers think that is essential:
‘seeing each other, meeting each other… being friends and going out on that playground and on that field and just kicking a ball around, or playing with each other.’
‘if you catch them at this point, then they might be more receptive to other things, and (respond well to) difference, as they go through the school, as they go through life.’
- Having fun
For children to live well together, it’s important to have fun together, on their own terms. This is what Schools Linking teachers have told us:
‘it was nice to be able to speak to another class, to wave and play silly games and make each other laugh. And yet, just learn that little bit more.’
“you definitely need some time in the day that’s not filled with a planned activity….where the kids can just chat and sit and talk and play a game or just have their lunch together”
‘[through linking] children not only learn from(each other) and develop skills necessary for meeting someone new, but (they) also associate meeting new people, perhaps from a different background to themselves, with a positive experience’
- Window into a wider world
“… getting to know somebody of a different background , can make you more aware of everything in the world”
Schools Linking helps children understand the wider world and think beyond their own bubble. To live well together we need empathy, understanding and a willingness to fight for injustice in the world. Teachers tell us that Schools Linking helps young people develop all of these key insights and abilities through connecting with other children, learning and having fun together.
How can you get involved? How do YOU think we all live well together?
Share your ideas via Twitter with the hashtag #SchoolsLinking or onto this moderated padlet and be in with a chance of winning a prize!