Blackburn with Darwen
Led by Blackburn with Darwen Council, the Schools Linking Programme was established in 2017 and is steadily growing. There is a real commitment from teachers and head teachers, working in partnership with the local authority, to bring students together across the district.
This year, Year 4 pupils from The Redeemer CE Primary School in Ewood and St Matthew’s CE Primary School in Audley have been linking; they came together three times during the year, for activities that aim to help build bridges between children from different cultural backgrounds. Together, the children, aged eight and nine, have taken part in lively classroom activities that explore themes around identity and belonging, which aim to create a sense of togetherness. Pupils have also exchanged work throughout the year. Last week the two schools came together at Blackburn Rovers Indoor Centre for a day of games and fun activities to celebrate their new friendships. Margaret Prescott, Assistant Headteacher at The Redeemer CE Primary School, spoke about the link: ‘The children from The Redeemer and St Matthew’s have met three times during this school year, including a visit to each other’s schools. It has been a great experience to witness our children coming together, having fun and finding out so many things about each other. The children have become friends.’
Thomas Woodward, Year 4 class teacher at St Matthew’s CE Primary School, agreed: ‘The Schools Linking project has provided our children with a worthwhile experience they otherwise wouldn’t have had. It was really good for the children to see that, whilst upon immediate inspection the children had lots of differences, when they spoke to each other, got to know each other and asked questions, they found a whole host of similarities.’
Pupils from Pleckgate High School and Roe Lee Park Primary School have also enjoyed an end of term celebration with their Linking partners, which brought together Year 7 pupils at Pleckgate with Roe Lee Park’s Year 6s. They marked the event with an Interfaith Day, supported by Blackburn with Darwen’s Interfaith Forum. Pupils studied a variety of religious artefacts and collaborated on artwork inspired by different religions. Jenny Savage, Head of Religious Studies at Pleckgate High School, said: ‘Forty-seven Roe Lee pupils joined our Year 7s. It was a huge success and allowed pupils the opportunity to meet and converse with children and adults who, although may be different from them in some ways, also have lots of things in common.’
Schools Linking in Blackburn with Darwen has brought together around 20 primary schools over the last two academic years. Around 1,000 pupils from both faith and non-faith schools and from different parts of the borough have made connections through the programme. From September, more schools will have the opportunity to take part in Schools Linking activities. The borough’s social integration programme, Our Community, Our Future, is supporting the activities, to get more pupils from diverse backgrounds learning together and forming friendships.
Councillor Mohammed Khan, Leader of Blackburn with Darwen Borough Council shared his thoughts on the work being done here: ‘Children and young people are vital to the success of our social integration plans. That’s why one of the four priorities of the Our Community, Our Future programme focuses specifically on this age group. It’s so important that our young people have opportunities to grow up together and form friendships beyond the school they attend and their immediate neighbourhoods.’
‘The Schools Linking work has proven to be a very successful way of breaking down any barriers between children from different cultural and religious backgrounds – while the children are enjoying one another’s company and learning from each other. Schools Linking has been nationally recognised as contributing to how schools can support their pupils’ spiritual, moral, social and cultural development. I’m really pleased that we can offer the programme to more Blackburn with Darwen schools, and I hope they take the opportunity to get involved.’
Sharifa Valli School Effectiveness Co-ordinator, Blackburn with Darwen Sharifa.Valli@blackburn.gov.uk