Evaluations of The Linking Network's Schools Linking Process 2006-2020

2019-2020 University of Kent



We are delighted that  Dr Lindsey Cameron, Senior Lecturer, Psychology Department, Kent University is currently working with The Linking Network as researcher in residence to provide us with research insights into our work.

Dr Cameron is a Senior Lecturer in Psychology and is an expert in the development of prejudice and stereotyping in children. She has twenty years of experience in the design and evaluation of prejudice-reduction interventions for use in schools, with particular expertise in inter-group contact theory. She has attracted funding for her research from the Big Lottery, Oxfam, Economic and Social Research Council, DfID, NHS.

She is passionate about bringing psychology to the wider world and achieves this through organising public engagement events, collaborations with national charities such as One Globe Kids and People United, as well as through action research with local schools. She is currently running a project on bullying in schools with the British Orthodontic Society and leads the annual Identity and Belonging educational challenges conference in partnership with the Kent Educational Psychology Service. The theme for this year’s event is Young People and Social Media.

More information on Dr Cameron and her research can be found below:


Researcher in Residence

As Researcher in Residence, Dr Cameron helps embed evidence-based practice and robust research methodology in the organisation and develop the research capabilities of members of staff.

In summary, Dr Cameron will work with The Linking Network identify critical points at which research can be used to evaluate the impact of key activities, develop and share methods of evaluation, and create research resources, deliver presentations or training and provide guidance and knowledge as and when required.  The Residency could also lead to externally funded research projects or joint academic publications and other revenue generation activities such as training or consultancy.

As Researcher in Residence, Dr Cameron will also develop further the link between the University of Kent and the Linking Network, providing access to resources such as voluntary student researchers, hosting joint events on campus and accessing expert advice from University on external funding opportunities.

To read more from Lindsey please see this note on

Research underpinning the linking process July 2019

Dr Lindsey Cameron

Webinar by Dr Lindsey Cameron on Negative Contact: What it is, what does it look like and why is it important?


2017-2018 The Centre for Peace, Trust and Social Relations, Coventry University

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 . 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 published 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. ‘

Evaluation of the Schools Linking Network: Final Report, NFER, March 2011

NFER evaluation   https://www.nfer.ac.uk/evaluation-of-the-schools-linking-network-final-report/

Evaluations of The Linking Network linking show that the linking model can achieve powerful impact where pupils gain:

  • Increased respect for others, self-confidence, self-efficacy.
  • Increased knowledge and understanding of complex issues and willingness to voice opinions and listen to others;
  • School linking can have a positive impact on many aspects of pupils’ skills, attitudes, perceptions and behaviours, particularly their respect for others, their self-confidence and their self-efficacy, as well as broadening the social groups with whom pupils interact.

Key Findings

  • The key determinant of the impact and outcomes of school linking for pupils is the intensity of the school linking experience. Linking had the greatest positive impact when the children at the linked schools met two or more times a year.
  • School linking can have a positive impact on many aspects of pupil’s skills, attitudes, perceptions and behaviours, particularly their respect for others, their self-confidence and their self-efficacy.
  • LAs have a critical role to play in supporting the  programme in schools through partnership working with schools at local level.
  • School and LA staff also benefit from the programme in terms of CPD, opportunities for self- reflection and learning about their pupils.
  • The majority of schools and LAs who took part in the programme planned to continue their involvement.
  • The programme was considered to be highly cost effective in relation to the impacts and outcomes it achieved.
  • The sustainability of school linking is improved where conscious attempts are made to embed the learning across the school curriculum.

Schools Linking Network Final Evaluation Report, 2008-09, A Raw

Linking Evaluation 2009

This evaluation was of the Bradford Schools Linking programme and the roll out to other local authority areas.

The following qualities and conditions emerge from the evaluation as indicators of how to identify and support best practice in Linking work, and how to identify and improve weak practice.

Common criteria for high performing links

High performing links were in settings which bore most or all of the following hallmarks:

  • Thoughtful teachers, committed to taking children to a deeper level of exploration, using the project as an opportunity and framework, and regularly reflecting on difficult issues;
  • A positive, open, questioning and healthy partnership between linked teachers, including co-reflection after linking days;
  • Well co-planned, well organised, equal and reciprocal linking experiences;
  • Face-to-face contacts for children, balanced and complemented by in depth classroom-based support work (including reflection time, exploring concerns openly and positively);
  • Staff / school with previous experience of linking, confidence in delivery and discussion;
  • Whole school commitment and focus on the linking work (passion at leadership level);
  • The school ethos places diversity, openness, curiosity and non-judgemental attitudes amongst its highest priorities;
  • Working with the most productive age-group for this work (Key Stage 2 children benefited most).


Schools Linking Project 2005-06: Full Final Evaluation Report, A Raw


This evaluation was of the Bradford Schools Linking Programme which had been established by Bradford Council, two beacon schools and a local authority consultant. Many pupils and teachers were interviewed for the evaluation and highly specific findings informed programme design;  ‘Dramatic increases in confidence and trust resulted from the project.’


Reviews of work of The Linking Network

The Casey Review of Opportunity and Integration (DCLG: 2016)


The Casey review conducted by the government in 2016  states that ‘There is strong evidence around the benefits that can derive from high levels of meaningful contact between people from different backgrounds’(5).

4.19. Another approach sometimes pursued where there are segregated schools is to bring pupils from different schools together to pursue joint activities. One approach to this, the Schools Linking programme, was evaluated by the National Foundation for Educational Research in 2011, which found it had a positive impact on pupils’ skills, attitudes, perceptions and behaviours, including their respect for others.

When children being educated in segregated schools are also growing up in an area where all of their neighbours are from the same ethnic and/or faith background… It deprives them of the benefits… that are known to derive from mixing with people from different backgrounds. P47.

Integrated Communities Strategy 2018



Government response: We welcome the fact that many respondents to the consultation recognised meaningful social mixing in schools as an important driver for integration. Some individuals disagreed because they perceived our proposals would force social mixing. We believe that providing children and young people with opportunities to have meaningful interactions with those from different backgrounds, helps foster more positive attitudes, builds understanding of different communities and cultures and breaks down barriers to greater integration. We will, therefore, continue to support approaches that promote social mixing between young people in schools and colleges, such as the Schools Linking Programme, and we will continue to work with the National Citizen Service and other charities and organisations that support innovative approaches for mixing beyond the school gates. Some respondents had concerns with the term ‘fundamental British Values’. While not unique to Britain, these are the shared values which underpin and unite our society, and the teaching of them is intended to help prepare children and young people for life in modern, diverse Britain. By actively promoting these values – democracy, rule of law, individual liberty and mutual respect and tolerance of those with different faiths and beliefs – schools play a vital role in equipping children and young people with the skills, values and knowledge to play a positive role in shaping cohesive and integrated communities. We will continue to work with the education sector to support them to embed and teach these values through their institutions’ ethos and activities.


We will continue to fund programmes which help promote social mixing, such as Near Neighbours and Schools Linking, which show that bonds can be formed with people from very different backgrounds and that people often find shared values and concerns, regardless of background.


British Academy Essays - 10 Local Actions to Promote Social Integration


This collection of essays brings academic viewpoints and research on social integration together with examples of practical interventions and activities that have been shown to make significant positive impact. TLN was asked to contribute an essay. (Essay 5) All essays were reviewed by a panel including Professor Anthony Heath CBE FBA Emeritus Professor of Sociology and Director of the Centre for Social Investigation, Nuffield College, Oxford University (Chair) and Professor Dominic Abrams FBA Professor of Social Psychology , Kent University.

‘Chapter 5 describes the work of the Linking Network, initially developed in Bradford by the local authority, to pair primary school classes from different areas to tackle segregation. The programme developed a structured year-long programme where the children could work and debate together in terms of mutual respect and on an equal footing. The project has since developed into a national frame-work and offers cost-effective ways to help young children develop positive skills, attitudes, perceptions and behaviours.’

Curriculum Review: Diversity and Citizenship, Sir Keith Ajegbo (2007)

www.educationengland.org.uk/documents/pdfs/2007- ajegbo-report-citizenship.pdf

Bradford Schools Linking Project Bradford has a sophisticated Schools Linking Project: • Established in 2001, it grew from concerns that many children were underachieving in primary schools; and growing unease about separation between different ethnic groups after the 2001 riots and 9/11, both within, but mainly between, many Bradford schools. • People working on the project identified a fundamental link between underachievement, especially by young people from ethnic minorities and poorer white boys, and disaffection and disengagement; and that separation in communities can only exacerbate these feelings. • The Linking Project brings together groups of children from different ethnic backgrounds ‘to work on issues that affect them all and give them real opportunities for exploration, discussion and expression of their perspectives on life in this increasingly confusing and volatile world.’

  • The Review Group visited the project involving Barkerend and Hothfield primary schools in Year 5: • The schools are in contrasting areas, one school almost entirely Asian, the other white. • Their link is based on clear curriculum objectives: they have spent considerable time learning about the rural and urban natures of their respective areas and what connects them historically and geographically.

The Ajegbo  Diversity and Citizenship Review commented on the importance of embedding work on diversity in the curriculum [and this has been a priority in the development of resources for linking embedding the work in the ‘everyday curriculum.’ . The review also recommended P4C, which has since become intrinsic to the Linking Programme.]

Promoting Ethnic and Religious Integration in Schools: A Review of Evidence


This review was commissioned by the DfE and undertaken by National NIESR and references Schools Linking and the resources Schools Linking provides for classroom use.  Page 29

RE and Good Community Relations: What can RE learn from social psychology? A Toolkit for Teachers of RE

https://www.natre.org.uk/uploads/Additional%20Documents/The%20Shared%20Space%20Folder/teachers%20toolkit%20final%20April%202018.pdf page 10

TLN was interviewed by the author in her fieldwork. The Toolkit outlined TLN’s use of Social Contact Theory.