The Derby Schools Linking Programme was launched in 2017 from scratch in Derby by Global Education Derby, a small Development Education Centre (DEC) with expertise in local and international linking. Working closely with another friendly local charity, The Open Centre, we recruited 16 enthusiastic classes to participate.
We facilitated our own neutral venue event at Pride Park Stadium in Derby in partnership with The Open Centre and Derby County Community Trust.This gave us hands on experience, working directly with the students and teachers, allowing us to get to know them all in greater depth. Workshops focused on small group discussion on images of Britain, making identity badges for each other and a stadium tour. In addition to this, six classes requested further support with facilitating their school to school visits in the Summer Term. We managed to provide this extra support using some Building Stronger Britain Together (BSBT) grant funding we had received.
Stories of our work
Darley Dale Primary School, Derbyshire (Y5) and St Giles School, Derby (Special School – KS2)
Prior to recruiting schools for the linking project, Darley Dale Primary School hosted an information afternoon for potential schools to find out more about the programme. This was a well-received session with many of the schools attending, signing up to become part of the programme.
The headteacher of Darley Dale School was supportive of the programme and very open minded, especially regarding linking with a special school. St Giles School particularly wanted to link with a mainstream school that shared a common interest or teaching programme such as forest schools. This was the first link we confirmed when we started matching up schools.
Before the first CPD training day, the two school leaders were already communicating with each other about how they could best work together.
The first meeting between the children at Darley Dale Primary School and St Giles School (Special School) was held at Pride Park Stadium. For these sessions, facilitators had to adapt the programme in order for all children to achieve and develop their skills within each activity e.g. cooperation skills, communication skills etc. The headteacher of Darley Dale thought this adaption was particularly helpful for the children who attend Darley Dale as this showed them a range of differing needs other children may have, even though they were of a similar age.
The schools continued to work together including through two additional link days at their respective schools. The final link day took place at St Giles’ School where the successes of the programme really began to stand out. For example, over the course of the year the children developed empathy and understanding of children attending a different type of school. For instance, when the children were playing on the playground together – many of the Darley Dale children adapted their games so that the children of St Giles could join in easily. The class teacher of Darley Dale was particularly impressed with how her children had deepened their understanding of diversity and was keen for them to rejoin the programme for the following year.
Both schools felt that the partnership had been successful and as a result wanted to host an additional activity day, such as a picnic, at a location between both schools. This is something the schools will be funding themselves.
On renewal for next year, Darley Dale’s headteacher said he had heard a member of his staff say “This is the best thing we have ever done!” and the partnership will be continuing.
Lawn Primary School (Y3) with Akaal Primary School (Y3 – Sikh School)
Both of these schools are Derby City Schools though they are very different from the type of buildings (Akaal is on a temporary site with very little outside space and is a fairly new school) through to one being a faith school and one not being a faith school. Lawn is a mixed school regarding diversity and is the larger school based in a more affluent suburb. Both schools were open minded regarding who they were going to be linked with following the head teachers attending a head’s briefing session in Derby.
From the first link day at Pride Park Stadium, the Lawn and Akaal children immediately ‘hit it off’. This was a sign that the children had been sufficiently prepped for the meeting. They were the first school partnership where the children choose to eat their lunches together in the ‘neutral’ space, rather than their dedicated zones. This showed the children were eager to build relationships with the children at the other school.
The schools continued to communicate in between visits, sharing videos, pieces of work and rehearsing stories and games in preparation for the next meeting.
For the school to school visit days, both schools showcased their building through treasure hunts and a wide range of varied activities. When Lawn Primary visited Akaal Primary, the children of Akaal were very eager to share their faith with their visitors. This was demonstrated by their enthusiasm to tell the Lawn children about the 5k’s through an interactive talk and using the Sikh bear in their class. The children also were excited to take Lawn Primary to the Gurdwara that adjoined their school building and were happy to show them how they pray and what happens inside this special building for Sikh people. Despite Akaal have 1/3 less children in their class to Lawn, the activities were still very successful.
Lawn Primary had two classes taking part in the linking project, each class linked to a different school. This was the first school to link successfully with more than one partner. This was due to a high level of commitment and excellent communication skills. Both schools have signed up again for next year as they felt the project was very successful and worthwhile. Lawn would prefer to link next year with another school ,similar to Akaal ,for their other class, as the faith link partnership showed the most successes and helped develop the children’s understanding of diversity beyond what they could offer in the classroom. Lawn have also recommended another Derby school to join the programme next year.
How we feel about the Linking programme
The programme has been a success for our area because we started with no prior links and now have multiple links across the city and the county with more interested in joining the programme next year. We feel there is a need for linking in this area because we have many differing criteria for diversity within a small radius e.g. social deprivation, ethnicity, religion and many types of extremist influence. Teachers in Derby and Derbyshire are keen to access support in order to better equip their children for the future.
A strength of our programme in Derby is the support we have received from partner organisations such as the Open Centre and Derby County Community Trust. Without this support, the programme would have been far weaker and limited in range and impact.
We were delighted with the response from everyone who participated in the linking activity days, including 17 parents/governors, 19 teachers and 28 teaching assistants/students. Roll on next year!
How others feel about the Linking programme
“Great to have the opportunity to discuss and share ideas and successes and be able to plan the exchange days, so they will be mutually beneficial to both groups of pupils.”
Teacher, Derby Schools Linking Programme 2017-2018
(Speaking about the CPD)
“Children gained confidence when meeting new people who are not from the same background, built friendships and had a lovely time.”
Teacher, Derby Schools Linking Programme 2017-2018
(Speaking about their neutral venue visit)
Yvonne Luce, Global Education Derby