The Rochdale Schools Linking Project is led by the Ethnic Minority Achievement Team (Rochdale Borough Council) and has been running since 2017. Initially involving 14 classes from 12 schools, the programme has expanded to include 26 classes in 2018/19, engaging approximately 780 children from 21 primary schools! We are lucky enough to be able to use the M6 Theatre for our neutral venue; based in Rochdale, it is one of Britain’s leading theatre companies, specialising in creating and delivering dynamic, high quality and relevant productions for young audiences. We have also had use of the Kamishibi storytelling stage for children who struggle to communicate.

Case Study: Ashfield Valley, Healey, Caldershaw and Meanwood Primary Schools As part of this project, the M6 Theatre Company, developed a unique showing of their latest production, ‘A Tiger’s Tale’, to the schools involved. The play, based on the true story of the Holmfirth Tiger, is a high-spirited balancing act of circus, puppetry, live music and song.  From a circus train in South Africa, to a steamboat on the Atlantic Ocean and onward to West Yorkshire, a ramshackle travelling troupe tell us the unbelievable true story of a family of acrobats and their adopted tiger cub.

The production was written by Mike Kenny, one of the UK’s leading writers in young people’s theatre. Mike is the recipient of numerous awards, was included in the Independent on Sunday’s list of Top Ten Living UK Playwrights and his plays are performed regularly throughout the UK and all over the world. Music in the show is by James Atherton, musical director and composer for theatre, television and film including work for the New Vic Theatre, Oldham Coliseum and the BBC.  The schools came together in pairs at the theatre and the children threw themselves into activities despite only having known each other for a few hours. The activities proved a great way to help them learn things about themselves, not just their linking classmates.  Each paired class produced their own circus performance.  They learned to trust each other, to explore what they are capable of individually and together.  They raised the roof!

As the project drew to a close each child painted two rocks around the linking themes. One rock is to keep at school and one is to exchange with their link class.  Both sets will be hidden on the school site.  The rocks, like the friendships they have built, are beautiful.  And just like the link, the children, are learning that they can create something special and let it go.

The rocks are legacy.  When September comes the next class involved in the link will begin by hunting the rocks left by the previous class.  They will know that are part of something bigger.

There is something magic that happens, beyond the teachers planning, quality texts and social contact theory, when two children discover that they are both the same and different and that this is more than ok.  We are doing the project in Rochdale because all of our children deserve this magic.”  The EMA Team

Debs Palmer, chief executive of M6 Theatre, said: “Friendships and experiences in childhood stay with us all our lives. They are the foundations of what we believe about ourselves, each other and the world around us. It is our pleasure and privilege to work with Rochdale council on this project, where education and arts specialists combine to create memorable and potentially life-changing experiences for children.”

“We felt that the children who participated in this link were brave, kind and incredibly supportive of each other. The M6 visit created the opportunity for them to have a shared experience with their linking classmates and supported them to learn about each other while discovering things about themselves. Their enthusiasm and joy was infectious.

Councillor Donna Martin, cabinet member for children’s services, said of the Programme:

“Those children will have had an experience that will stay with them for years to come, perhaps a lifetime. The purpose of the linking network is to support schools to develop a positive, cohesive ethos by helping children to explore identity, celebrate diversity, champion equality and promote community.” 

Fiona Fogarty, Teaching and Learning Advisor for the LA, said: “The whole experience was amazing. Really moving to see the children relate and watch the show together.  So glad I was able to attend.”

 Year 3 girl: “I didn’t even know we were going to be friends!”

Contact:  Erica Field, Ethnic Minority Achievement, Rochdale Borough Council –