Derby and Derbyshire

The Derby Schools Linking Programme was launched in 2017 by Global Education Derby, a small Development Education Centre with expertise in local and international linking. Working closely with another friendly local charity, The Open Centre; we recruited 16 enthusiastic classes to participate in our first linking year and this has continued to grow steadily.

We are pleased to say that we are now recruiting for Linking in 2022-23; we have a core group of schools who have participated in our linking programme from the beginning and teachers who are great advocates of linking and every year, and we are keen to welcoming schools who are new to Linking. We are hoping that CPD and meet – ups can be face to face this year, building a sense of togetherness with other children and connecting children to build their confidence in contact with others.

We facilitate our own neutral venue events at Pride Park Stadium in Derby, in partnership with The Open Centre and Derby County Community Trust. This gives us hands on experience, working directly with the students and teachers, allowing us to get to know them all in greater depth, we are also exploring some new venues to add to the list.

Our neutral venue days follow a tried and tested formula, with some whole group games and chat followed by a carousel of mixed class activities. Our aim is to make the day as inclusive, interactive and flexible as possible. Last year, we augmented the ever-popular identity badges and stadium tour with drama workshops to promote creativity and introduce the sustainable development goals. It was great to see the children communicating and cooperating in small group work with confidence.

Having a number of mixed age classes means we have some children linking again for the second or third time. The overarching impression is that these children benefit from revisiting a familiar environment and find it even more enjoyable the next time around.

KS2 Case study: Darley Dale Primary School, Derbyshire (Y5) and St Giles (Special) School, Derby

This partnership was established in 2017. The schools were keen to establish and maintain the partnership with strong commitment from the senior leadership team in both schools. St Giles were adamant that a link with a mainstream school was their preference and Darley Dale were keen to embrace the opportunity. The resulting partnership has endured staff changes, long term absences and Ofsted inspections.

St Giles combine both their key stage 2 classes together to link with the Year 5 class at Darley Dale Primary; therefore many of their children revisit the linking programme during their time in the key stage.

The very first meeting between the children at Darley Dale Primary School and St Giles School was held at Pride Park Stadium.  The programme was adapted to ensure that all children could achieve and develop their skills within each activity.  The Head Teacher 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. Since that first year, we have become even more determined to plan equitable activities, allowing every child to participate and shine.

The final link day took place at St Giles’ School, where the successes of the Programme really began to stand out. Over the course of the year, the children developed empathy and understanding of similarities and differences; we saw evidence of this: 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.

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.

A Darley Dale staff member was heard to say “This is the best thing we have ever done!”

There have been staffing changes at both schools in the intervening years. However, the new class teachers remain extremely committed to the programme

Staff report that they appreciate learning from each other across special/mainstream boundaries and incorporate their observations into their own teaching. On the visit last year, the St Giles children enjoyed teaching Darley Dale children sign language and they performed a song together, with signing, at the end of the day.  There is clear awareness that children from both schools benefit from and contribute to the partnership.

The partnership is referenced in the Darley Dale Ofsted report (November 2019), illustrating how it fits in to the broader context of school life, “Teachers arrange for them to help at a local home for the elderly and to meet pupils from a special school in Derby. Staff provide many opportunities for pupils to volunteer and contribute to the school and community. Pupils learn about the importance of respecting others and to celebrate the diversity in the world. Pupils attend The Open Centre to learn about different faiths and cultures.” – the first day of the inspection coincided with a linking day at Pride Park stadium which continued as planned.

Case Study: Lawn Primary and Akaal Primary (Y3 pupils aged 7 – 8 years)

Lawn Primary School and Akaal Primary School are founding members of the Derby Schools Linking Programme. When this partnership began, Akaal was a newly established state funded Sikh school, housed on a temporary site, with very little outside space. The school has since relocated into a new build location with excellent facilities and a large playing field.  Lawn is a larger, mixed and more diversely populated school, based in a more affluent suburb.  Both schools value the partnership highly. Lawn has incorporated the link into RE and ICT activities. Akaal has a strong emphasis on community values being at the heart of their  ethos. This pair trialled the initial experiential linking days at Pride Park Stadium, where the children immediately ‘hit it off’ on neutral territory. They were the first school partnership where the children chose to eat their lunches together, indicating an eagerness to build relationships with children from 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. Both schools showcased their buildings through treasure hunts and a wide range of varied activities in visits hosted on both campuses. The children at Akaal were excited to take Lawn Primary to their Gurdwara and were happy to show them how they pray and what happens inside this special building for Sikh people. This aspect has been maintained, even though Akaal are now located in a new school.

The class link has been recognised as mutually beneficial to children from both schools. Older children at Lawn often ask about the children they met from Akaal, say how much they would like to visit the new school and meet up again. The partnership has strong support from senior leaders in both schools, ensuring that new staff are prepared to continue the project when staffing has changed. Akaal School host training sessions, led by Global Education Derby, for all linking project teachers from across Derby and Derbyshire on their premises (free of charge.) When taking on the project the class teacher from Lawn said “I have heard wonderful things about the partnership from Andy.  He spoke glowingly about the value of the connection and the impact that it has had on the children!  We are really looking forward to meeting you (albeit virtually, perhaps) and working with you next year.”

Autumn 2020 saw a shift to online CPD and virtual linking. For many of our partner schools this  greatly reduced their engagement. However, communication and online activities continued  between the classes at Akaal and Lawn throughout lockdowns. Both schools are looking at  expanding linking opportunities building care home links too.

The teachers and pupils demonstrated a willingness to overcome barriers, pooling their skills and strengths to make their partnership thrive. Both schools have enhanced their partnership during  a challenging period. They are now keen to re-establish social interaction and support pupils to build  their interpersonal and communication skills in real world contexts once more.

Finally – a joyous few words about one of our Intergenerational links between a school and a care home; on the recent Jubilee weekend,  Ashbourne Lodge Care Home residents were invited to Ashbourne Hill Top School for a day of #IntergenerationalLinking and family fun outside.   Six residents visited the school for the Jubilee event. They were very nervous about leaving the home,  as it was such a long time since they had been out anywhere and it had affected their confidence. However, a good time was had by all and they didn’t want to leave! Thank you so much to Hilltop school for inviting some of our residents and staff to their outdoor jubilee party. We all had a lovely day & were treated like Royalty ourselves. We loved chatting to the pupils, listening to them sing and play. Absolutely lovely day Thank you .

Photos to come!

If you would like to join us for schools linking or intergenerational linking, please get in touch!

Contact: Yvonne Luce, Education Programme Manager, Global Education Derby


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