The Rochdale Schools Linking Project is led by the Equalities Team (Rochdale Borough Council) and has been running since 2017. Initially involving 14 classes from 12 schools, the programme has expanded to now include 30 classes in 2019/20, engaging approximately 860 children from 25 local schools. We are lucky enough to be able to use the M6 Theatre for our neutral venue. Based in Rochdale, M6 Theatre is one of Britain’s leading theatre companies, specialising in creating and delivering dynamic, high quality and relevant productions for young audiences.
All Saints CE and St Luke’s CE – A Year 4 Linking Journey
In 2017/18, alongside ten other Church of England primary schools in Rochdale, All Saints and St Luke’s worked together to produce ‘We Are One’ – a film aimed at exploring Christian values and diversity. The Rochdale Linking Programme offered both schools the opportunity to continue to explore the concepts examined in their film. The Headteachers, Kim Farrall and Sharon Hardy, agreed that their year 4 classes would take part in the 2018/19 linking journey.
‘St. Luke’s decided to participate in the Rochdale Linking Schools Programme to give children who do not have the opportunity to travel out of Heywood, the chance to broaden their mind set and meet new people,’ Kim Farrall, Headteacher, St Luke’s CE
‘All Saints’ decided to be involved in the Rochdale Linking Schools Programme as we believed that it would be a good opportunity for shared learning that would develop the children’s sense of community. Through collaboration with pupils from different contexts, we wanted our pupils to explore shared values and develop friendships,’ Sharon Hardy, Headteacher, All Saints.
‘Our school is committed to giving our pupils every opportunity to develop personally: to increase their sense of self-worth and their appreciation of others, their ability to empathise and their capacity to be a true friend. What better way than through ‘Linking schools,’ Fiona Fogarty, Vice Chair of Governors, St Luke’s CE.
Although All Saints and St Luke’s are both Church of England schools they serve very different communities. As part of the baseline assessment class teachers were asked to what extent they felt their pupils had the opportunity to mix with others from different backgrounds, responding on a 5 point scale. The teacher from All Saints responded 4, most of the time. The teacher from St Luke’s responded 1, not at all.
‘We wanted to encourage the children to consider themselves as part of a larger community with children from diverse backgrounds and to build relationships with others with a focus on identity and belonging,’ Kim Farrall, Headteacher, St Luke’s CE.
‘Initially I was bit sceptical about how this project would work with pupils from very different schools, catchment areas and ethnic back grounds,’ Saba Khalid, teacher, All Saints.
During CPD1 the class teachers identified what they hoped to achieve through linking:
- Creating opportunities for the children to meet others that they would not otherwise meet;
- Promoting understanding and developing respect for others from different backgrounds;
- Developing literacy skills through real reasons for communicating;
- Participating in meaningful exploration of spiritual, moral, social and cultural development (SMSC), including British Values.
Alongside this, the teachers mapped out how they intended to engage parents and what would be exchanged during the autumn term. The classes explored and exchanged poetry, identity jigsaws, artwork, films and photos.
Poem written by a yr4 child at All Saints
Little Gift– a neutral venue visit
Teacher assessment at the beginning of the journey identified that the children were in very different positions when it came to opportunities to mix with others from different backgrounds. Potentially, the classes might have struggled when they met at the theatre for the first time.
‘I wanted pupils to engage with one another and get to know each other, hoping that they would realise that they are all the same in a lot of ways. I wanted pupils to take part in cooperative learning and maximize their engagement with activities by sharing them with unfamiliar peers,’ Saba Khalid, teacher, All Saints.
Careful planning and thoughtful exchanges between the two classes, prior to the meeting in November, meant that the children already felt a connection. Enthusiastic, curious and creative, the classes came together to explore the core questions of Linking.
‘I wondered what they would be like. I thought they would be different to me. They are a little different, but not much. And it’s ok to be different,’ Year 4 girl, St Luke’s
‘This helps you learn how to make friends when you are all different and all the same,’ Year 4 boy, All Saints
‘The lesson ideas and resources allowed us to get the pupils engaged and enthusiastic about the whole project. Initially they didn’t think that they would have much in common with pupils from another year group and struggled with recording curiosity questions as they weren’t sure if they would be appropriate. However, meeting at the M6 Theatre and taking part in very carefully planned activities helped. Pupils were able to engage in a positive way,’ Saba Khalid, Teacher, All Saints.
‘The smiles on the faces of the children as they leave is a gift to all involved in this project, the words from the beginning of the day ‘nervous, sick, scared’ have long been forgotten and they go back to school feeling ‘happy, excited and joyful’.
The workshop is designed to ensure the children have a positive experience from the moment they arrive at M6 Theatre. Our experienced facilitators are skilled in supporting the children through those initial moments – keeping the atmosphere light and positive and identifying those children who may need extra support. The children’s achievements are highlighted to them throughout the day, particularly in the first section where they meet someone new, talk to them, find out facts and speak in front of the whole group,’ Caroline Kennedy, Participation programme Manager, M6 theatre.
All Saints hosted a visit from their linked class from St Luke’s CE. Using the topic Around the Worldthe Year 4 teacher provided rich opportunities for children from both classes to:
- use of a range of social skills in different contexts, working and socialising with other pupils, including those from different religious and ethnic backgrounds;
- develop a sense of enjoyment and fascination in learning about themselves, others and the world around them;
- use imagination and creativity in their learning.
Activities facilitated the social and cultural development of pupils and encouraged attitudes that should allow them to participate and contribute positively to life in modern Britain.
‘The most exciting bit has been seeing our friends, having St Luke’s here! And making clay masks,’ Year4 boy, All Saints.
‘I’m excited to be here, to do loads of stuff. You think the day will never come but it does!’ Year 4 girl, St Luke’s.
‘It was great to see so many children excitedly participating. Students were eager to share their thoughts in relation to their experiences and many children had obviously grown in confidence through the process. Children reported that they had really enjoyed the experience and that it had been interesting meeting students from other schools. Some children had expressed being nervous and apprehensive prior to the day but felt this experience had made them much more confident in meeting new people and more able to cope with managing new situations,’ Vinnie Howarth, Performance and Achievement Officer (SEND) for the LA.
Our Linking School, St Luke’s, came to visit our school for a day of fun activities from around the world. We all had a fantastic day making masks, working with clay, drawing our own op art and playing games.
– Extract from All Saints website:
What has the impact been?
‘I didn’t know anything about St Luke’s before Linking but now I know they are my friends!’ Year 4 boy, All Saints
‘I think it’s a really good idea. You get to learn about each other. You get to share the learning,’ Year 4 girl, St Luke’s
‘All children and staff have thoroughly enjoyed the experience. Children have had the opportunity to interact with others they wouldn’t usually get the chance to meet in a structured and focused way. Children have built fantastic relationships over the year with children from All Saints’. They have loved meeting new friends and thoroughly enjoy the experience,’ Kim Farrall, Headteacher, St Luke’s CE
‘The project has proved to be a great success. The work that the children completed has allowed them to strengthen friendship bonds and celebrate differences. The children are always eager to see their new friends and look forward to the next activity. We feel that this has been a memorable learning experience that will stay with the children for a long time. We hope that the influence of this project will break down barriers and impact positively on their future lives,’ Sharon Hardy, Headteacher, All Saints
‘Pupils from my school share the view that we have some differences but mostly we are the same. I do not think that we would have been able to achieve this shift in thinking without taking part in the Linking project,’ Saba Khalid, teacher, All Saints.
‘As a governor, I am proud that our school is part of this worthwhile project that addresses such genuine aims through enjoyable and memorable activities,’ Fiona Fogarty, Vice Chair of Governors, St Luke’s CE
‘There are a wide range of needs within the participating groups from each school. All children were well supported. It has been interesting to see just how quickly children have accepted and engaged with each other,’ Vinnie Howarth, Performance and Achievement Officer (SEND) for the LA
We Are We – a collective poem
Belonging, a sense of affinity, of being part of something larger can feel so important when we are growing up. In Rochdale, ever diverse and steeped in cooperative history, the idea resonates. One of the things that we love about Schools Linking is the way it celebrates a sense of self while championing a sense of belonging. We wanted to find a way to capture this.
We worked with a small group of children to come up with a structure for a poem.
I am Me but We are We
Every Linking child in Rochdale was invited to complete the verse and then each class was invited to select their favourite and contribute it to the collective poem. A number of classes combined their individual ideas to create something new. We have had some wonderful submissions. Each verse is unique and each verse belongs in the poem. So, I am me but WE are Rochdale. You can find the finished poem on Twitter here
Contact: Erica Field, Equalities Team, Rochdale Borough Council – email@example.com
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Or find us under Schools and Education on the Rochdale Council website