Comments about Schools Linking 

Yvette Thomas, Trustee and former Linking Facilitator in Buckinghamshire

Toby Haworth, Chair of Trustees, Bishop of Bradford

Bridget Kohner, Pears Foundation

Hilary Patel, Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government

Endorsements of Schools Linking

Dr Chris Shannahan, Centre for Peace, Trust and Social Relations, Coventry University Evaluation of Schools Linking, was commissioned by MHCLG to conduct an evaluation of the National Schools Linking Programme here (full report and summaries) in 2018:

‘Given the relatively low cost of TLN schools linking it has become clear that it provides excellent value for money and a highly effective means of building cross-cultural understanding, ethical citizenship and inclusive models of social cohesion.’ P46

It can be concluded that The Linking Network’s National Schools Linking Programme is a highly effective initiative, which has shown its ability to foster greater self-understanding, critical thinking, intercultural and interfaith dialogue and understanding, empathy and mutual respect amongst the 17,575 pupils who participate in the programme. TLN schools linking provides teachers with a tried and tested means of addressing key issues in SMSC, exploring citizenship, reflecting on ‘British’ values in an inclusive way and modelling future citizens.’    

We spoke to Headteachers and asked them to tell us what Linking means to them and their pupils:

As a small primary school with a predominantly white British demographic, we were keen to take part in the Linking Project in order to teach our children about cultural / ethnic diversity. It has been a really valuable experience for our pupils; helping them make connections with an entirely different group of children    Headteacher, Wharncliffe Side Primary School (Sheffield) November 2020

‘The project has proved to be a great success. The work the children completed has allowed them to strengthen friendship bonds and celebrate differences. We feel this has been a memorable learning experience that will stay with the children for a long time. We hope the influence of this project will break down barriers and impact positively on their future lives’   Headteacher,  Rochdale

‘I would recommend it to other Heads as I think that it provides a great opportunity for children to engage & interact with pupils in a very different school setting. The pupils at Beckfoot Allerton talk very fondly (during the year and in subsequent years) of their involvement in the project and the friends they made. Also the resources used alongside the project are great from a PSHCE/developing a stronger sense of self point of view.’   Kate Horton, Bradford Headteacher      

More quotes from Headteachers

We also spoke to the teachers who were leading the linking:

‘This is the best thing we have ever done!’ Darley Dale teacher, Derby

‘I have absolutely loved being part of this project and feel so privileged to have been involved. I cannot quantify just how much I have learned and how Linking Schools has helped me so much and in so many ways to develop as teacher.  I must express my gratitude for the fabulous resources, books, and ideas you have continually highlighted and recommended over the years. My children and the children in the rest of the school have benefited so very much in every way.. I have  been able to offer my children a range of valuable opportunities that, without Linking Schools, may not have been possible. I feel the SMSC/BVs and RE lessons I have delivered over the years, have been enriched by my own learning and experiences with the project.  Linking Teacher,  Stockport    

More quotes from teachers explaining why they think it is important to take part in linking.

Brilliant for preparing for Ofsted, everything addressed. Best course I have ever attended!   Primary School Teacher, Gloucestershire

and also on resources, CPD and SMSC training, which we deliver.

…and, most importantly. students:

‘Wish we had more opportunities to do something like this.’ Bradford student

‘ … not everyone from a particular ethnic background is the same.’  North Yorkshire student

‘We never really know who anyone is until we sit down and listen to their story.’ secondary student, Kirklees

‘I haven’t done something like this before. I was very nervous to meet new people, but I feel more confident now, and not scared of meeting different people. We are all the same really.’  Year 3 student at Ashbury Meadow, Manchester.

 More student quotes

Local authorities respond to the question – why is linking important in your area?

‘Many schools in Oldham have been really positive about this years linking opportunities and there has been a lot of excitement towards the plan. They are really impressed and pleased about the amount of opportunities that they can access that brings togetherness without meeting face to face and that more year groups can get involved. They are also really pleased with the  programme and how it supports other curriculum areas.  They would like to thank the Linking Network for their hard work, commitment and support during this unprecedented situation and for creating some wonderful opportunities.’   Suzy Ashworth, Oldham’s facilitator, October 2020

‘…School linking is a valuable way of broadening children’s horizons through quality, structured communication with children from different communities and backgrounds but with shared experiences. Although schools and teachers have at times been under severe pandemic-related pressures, most have continued to make time for linking because it is so well-organised, constructive and supportive and it’s bringing a little joy back into children’s lives. I have been delighted to find that despite all the extra workload with absent colleagues and pupils, linked teachers are making time for this and jointly engaging with the activities. I don’t think its an exaggeration to say that this programme is likely to boost children’s mental health during these difficult times. As a local area co-ordinator, I have really valued the provision of quality activities, CPD and support and being able to meet and share ideas and plans with other linking areas.’   Rob Unwin, DECSY Sheffield/Rotherham 2020

‘It is vital that we continue with the school linking programme as it is one of the very few opportunities that students living in Leicester and Leicestershire have to engage with those who are different from them. The School Linking programme provides a vital opportunity for young people to realise that we have far more in common than what divides us. The fact that our local programme is part of something national gives the necessary status to the programme, showing that it is not targeting the city or county of Leicester in particular, but that it is part of a project to bring the whole country together and keep us united in the face of a challenge whose scale is greater than anything any one in our generation has ever faced.’     Revd. Tom Wilson, Director, St Philip’s Centre 2020

More quotes from local authorities

Quotes about Linking from Past Reports

The curriculum is broad and balanced. It offers pupils the chance to learn about and understand different faiths and cultures. For example, Year 3 pupils engage in a project which links them to another school in Bradford where there is much greater ethnic diversity. Pupils report that they love this project and have kept in touch with their partners over many months and years’     Ofsted Inspection October 2018, Eldwick Primary

Linking creates opportunity for children to engage with pupils from a completely background.  Under our commitment to and responsibility for Community Cohesion, we believe Schools Linking provides our local schools with a fantastic opportunity to forge new friendships and champion equality, whilst challenging ignorance and intolerance. We believe this project plays a part in contributing to good relations locally. For primary schools in particular, we know how relevant this project is to the curriculum and therefore how easily staff see it fitting in to their planning.   Bolton Council.

We deliver schools linking topromote social integration. It is a curriculum response to prevent FGM, radicalisation, forced marriage, gangs and hate crime.    Training, resources and support is free. It is important that it is a nationally run programme endorsed by DfE and MHCLG. Resources available on website that fit into the curriculum.     Schools Linking approach to social integration supported by the Government in the ‘Integrated Communities Strategy Green Paper Summary’ of consultation responses and Government response February 2019

We deliver schools linking to encourage pupils to embrace and take a healthy and generous interest in the joys and complexities of difference and diversity wherever they find it; at home, at school, in the wider world. The programme creates meaningful and positive encounters with others who are perceived as different. The LA recognises he excellent work which is taking place through School Linking. Senior Officers have seen some of the outcomes from the work which has taken place when they attended the finale when over 500children and 150 adults shared presentations with other children and staff. The cost to the LA for supporting this work is minimal when compared to the outcomes which are achieved through what takes place.   Kirklees Local Authority

Linking is firmly rooted in the curriculum, creates meaningful interaction and offers wonderful resources made by teachers, for teachers. We have done this programme for 10 years now and trust TLN. We know the resources and CPD benefit the staff, school and pupils. We also know that it is imperative for children in our area to learn to live together and enjoy being part of a society that is not always the same as themselves. We feel it is credible, well resourced, tried over time, constantly evolving to meet new demands and it is a programme that puts children at the heart.    Stockport Council leading the programme for Stockport, Manchester