Led by Discover Learning with Calderdale Museums, Calderdale Council, Calderdale Schools Linking Programme began in 2010 and currently involves 531 children from 15 primary schools. The 20 classes on the programme meet their paired class at the Bankfield Museum, Calderdale for their first meeting and the museum provides an accessible fully facilitated neutral venue. The teacher training is also held at the museum.
Advocate of the programme, Emma Hygate, Prevent Education Officer, had this to say:
‘I have taken part in the Linking Project and can see the positive impact it has on young people in terms of giving them access to a multi-cultural experience where organically there may otherwise be limited opportunities. the project…is a place for our younger members of society to learn about other people in a safe and stimulating environment’
This year our teachers have been surprised at how their SEN pupils have engaged with other children.
‘Our SEN children really made connections with other children we were linked with,’ Teacher from Ash Green Primary School.
‘For one of our children with behavioural issues the project has had a positive impact, the conversations with the other children kept them engaged,’ Teacher from Mount Pellon.
And some comments from the neutral venue visit at Bankfield Museum:
‘I didn’t think it would have been that much fun’, child from Mount Pellon Academy.
‘The enthusiasm of the staff, the organisation of the day really helped our children that were nervous.’ Teacher from Mount Pellon Academy.
‘As a school, we are predominately White British so one boy was really excited to have a Muslim partner and kept asking lovely questions to his partner to find out about his way of life.’ Teacher from Barkisland.
‘The children from Old Town were very mature and caring towards my class.’ Teacher from Parkinson Lane School.
‘Very enlightening for our children to meet others of a different/no faith and of a completely different cultural background.’ Teacher from Parkinson Lane School.
Stuart Smith, Director of Children and Young People’s Services, Calderdale Council, said of the programme:
“I can’t think of a time in our cultural history when the Schools Linking Programme could be more important, more beneficial or be more valuable. It seems to me that an enormous effort through social media worldwide is focussed on negative aspects of the differences between peoples … of course we all know that celebrating these differences and identifying our similarities is the real joy of living in a diverse world. My experience is that when given the opportunity, children more readily identify the things they have in common first and then enjoy noticing their differences … we somehow manage to teach them prejudice at a later stage. I welcome the work of the Calderdale Schools Linking Programme, it is something every educator should become involved in”
‘So if you are a Governor, Head, teacher or a parent, please explore whether your primary school could get involved with this programme. It seems to me that now more than ever we need to get the concepts of tolerance and respect embedded within the pupils’ understanding as early as possible and this seems to be a fun way to approach the concepts”
Fiona Willats, Calderdale Museums Service, Calderdale Council –firstname.lastname@example.org