Local Authorities respond to the question … Why is linking important for  your area ?

 ‘We consider that the TLN approach provides CPD for school staff on creating an inclusive ethos, providing scaffolded opportunities for pupils to engage in real and meaningful dialogue and reflection, exploring identity, diversity, community, and equality. Being part of a local network, within a national project, ensures that the teachers feel confident about the research and quality of the strategy and resources. They also know that help is at hand should any issues arise (for example staff illness, long term absence, communication breakdown) reducing their anxiety and easing workload pressures. Teachers become part of a learning community, expanding their own understanding and expertise in partnership with others with equity, cooperation, common goals etc central to their experience, as well as the children.‘  Yvonne Luce, Global Education Derby

This year has shown more than ever why it is important to have School linking.  Like many other parts of our society, it has been longstanding that demographics in Pendle show large pockets of mono-cultural populations and a few geographical areas where there are diverse populations.

 For young people who already have little or zero interaction with a person from a different culture, evidence shows how ignorance, prejudice, racism, and social division breeds in such environments. We have had an increase in levels of racism and prejudice openly expressed with a blame game taking place between ethnic communities, as to why local restrictions have been imposed due to increased infection rates of Covid-19 and who is at fault. The best way to counter these negative social influences and tackle this social deficit is to connect –  the need to create opportunities of cross-cultural learning and development at a young age has never been so important. The level of work that has taken place nationally in terms of School Linking, must be sustained at the least.  Anything less will an exponential step backwards, not only limiting learning opportunities but also fragmenting and weakening relationships that have been built between Schools.  We are fortunate to have a network where good practice and models of engagement are shared and developed.  This is a national issue and therefore the current national infrastructure that exists must surely be supported to grow, rather than retract at such an important time in our national response to the range of impact the Coronavirus has had.’  Rauf Bashir, Building Bridges Pendle

The Linking Schools programme provides an opportunity for us to bring together children from completely different areas of the North East (Newcastle/Gateshead). We explore new ways of working with children, connecting children to each other using their cultural heritage as a catalyst for dialogue, debate, and discussion. At the moment it is more important than ever that children get the opportunity to meet, whether that is virtually or in person, sharing and exchanging experiences, stories and knowledge. This work would not be able to happen in Newcastle/Gateshead without the support from the Linking Network.‘  Anne Fountain, Newcastle Council

In Tower Hamlets we are very keen to support children’s relationships beyond their peer groups, currently virtually, in order to explore diversity in their community by linking with a contrasting school.  Curiosity, connection, and kindness are emphasised as the children come together.  Our support, modelled on that of the national network, ensures teachers have the skills and resources to nurture connections that are joyful, equitable and meaningful.  As a network the approach has been adapted in a way that would have been very difficult for one organisation alone to pull off, again underlining the value being part of a national network brings. ‘ Triny Diaz, Global Learning London

Buckinghamshire is a large local authority. The county has a diverse profile with scattered rural communities, ethnically diverse towns and suburbs, areas of economic and social deprivation and some of the wealthiest postcodes in the country.  Due to the geography of the county, these communities often live many miles from each other and perceptions and insights into the lives of others can be insular. School Linking breaks down barriers between communities, replacing them with understanding, respect, and friendship.  It supports Personal Development, SMSC, Equalities and PSHE in the curriculum. Virtual linking this year is giving pupils perhaps one of the only opportunities to connect with new people and gain insight into the lives of each other.   The work of the Linking Network is, and has always been inspirational, and we are very proud of what continues to be achieved both locally and across the country. The support, training and resources from the Linking Network has been fantastic, particularly during lockdown, when schools reopened and with the ongoing issues schools face with Covid-19. If ever there was a need to understand, respect and celebrate differences and recognise our shared common humanity – it is now; this project gives us the structure, resources, and support to deliver this to our schools.’ Carol Stottor ,  PSHE Lead, Buckinghamshire

Linking  allows schools in rural settings to join with urban schools, it allows neighbouring schools to work in partnership. It reminds all children of their shared interests .It helps the children to know that whilst we are different, we have so many things that we share. Linking and being part of a network allows staff to share ideas, develop friendships and provides informal CPD across schools and even authorities.  Right now, during COVID we are constantly reminded that we cannot be together. That being together is dangerous and that we should stay apart to keep each other safe. Schools Linking in our new virtual way, reminds us that it is good to be together, that we can learn from and with each other and that when we are together, our neighbourhoods and communities are better. We are better. On a less serious but still important note – our virtual Linking programme will bring joy, laughter, and fun into classrooms.‘   Julie-Ann McCulloch, Manchester/Stockport

‘We have a very diverse population in Bolton and in today’s climate it is absolutely vital that the different communities continue to live together in harmony and have a mutual understanding and respect for each other.  The Schools Linking Project facilitates children and young people from different backgrounds and cultures to come together, learn about each other’s similarities and differences and make friends.  These children and young people are the future of Bolton.’  Yousif Islam – Head of Service at ACIS Bolton

‘The programme is supported by the DfE and DCLG – so schools know that this programme has gravitas.  It isn’t a ‘touchy feely’ fly by night idea created on a whim.  The programme feels solid, grounded in experience and theory and rich is support and resources.  Having the programme sit in the curriculum, linking it to OFSTED, SMSC and British Values and then requiring schools to make a significant yearlong commitment means that schools feel more confident in the investment. Linking offers an opportunity to bring about real social change while supporting your curriculum. Providing a clear, actionable framework, Linking builds on whoyour children are right now to help them explore identity,diversity, community and equality. It creates space to let schools explore the big questions which arevital to helping children develop their sense of self and their role in their communities. And it does it through quality texts and sounds teaching approaches. Linking isn’t extra, isn’t the icing on the cake, it is the cake! It’s whole reason you came into teaching in the first place.’  Erica Field, Rochdale LA facilitator

‘We believe passionately about breaking down barriers to social integration, developing good relations between communities and ensuring that pupils are able to develop self-worth and confidence, alongside an appreciation of others; The Linking Network has this wrapped up in a neat and perfectly formed programme that is accessible to all.  I would like to offer my sincerest thanks to the TLN team and the Sponsors: DfE, MHCLG, Pears Foundation, without their help and support this project would not be possible.’  Gillie Heath, Kent LA facilitator