The Birmingham Linking Programme is led by The Faith & Belief Forum. Since its inception in 2018, it has given students the opportunity and confidence to explore and celebrate their own identities and the identities of their peers in different schools across the city. The programme has also given students opportunities to break down barriers and misconceptions through the model of sustained encounters and engaging in opportunities for dialogue.
The Birmingham Linking Programme has gone from strength to strength and in 2019/20 enabled linking between a fabulous 72 classes from primary and secondary schools, engaging over 2,000 students. We train teachers to deliver the programme through 2 CPD training dates in the Autumn and Spring terms. In 2020/21, we were pleased to have the majority of our schools still linking, despite restrictions and disruptions to the usual programme. We are looking forward to seeing familiar faces and welcoming new schools in 2021/22.
In our first year of Linking in the region we were able to build up some really good relationships that supported last year’s neutral venue visits. This added huge value to the experience of the students. Venues included; WBA FC (The Hawthorns), Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery, Aston Hall Museum,Botanical Gardens, Selly Manor Museum, The Moor Pool Estate, The Bridge Community Centre, Midland Arts Centre,Tywcross Zoo and The Lighthouse Youth Centre.
2019 was our second year of Linking in Birmingham, we held over 30 link days across the city. Below are some of the highlights of the year:
We have been incredibly fortunate to partner with Birmingham Museums Trust (BMT) who have hosted our CPD’s at exciting venues such as ThinkTank Museum, Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery and Aston Hall over the last 2 years. In addition to this they have offered and delivered bespoke link day experiences for some of our pairs across a number of their sites.
In December 2018, Lead Link teachers from Perryfields High with Small Heath Leadership Academy held their first link day with 28 year 9 pupils at Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery. The venue provided a fantastic first meeting space and pupils were able to discuss identity and shared values.
In January staff from Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery hosted and ran a brilliant workshop for Al Ameen and St Nicholas RC School’s first link day. They used the amazing venue to run interactive art challenges exploring identity. Sarah English from BMAG said: ‘we loved seeing pupils tackle interactive art challenges and share ideas in our galleries.’
Also in January another one of BMT’s sites, Aston Hall hosted Nishkam Primary and Holy Cross RC School for their Link day 1. The venue is exciting as it is, but the staff at the museum made it even more special through delivery of excellent workshops exploring the venue drawing on key Link day one topics such as Identity.
We were also able to continue our partnership with The Albion Foundation (TAF). This partnership enabled us to hold 3 Link days at WBA Football Club’s ground the Hawthorns, last year. This was an amazing venue to hold link days with staff at TAF supporting with the delivery of workshops around diversity and inclusion and ground tours!
Another highlight was the first link day between Olive Primary and Moseley CoE Primary at The Bridge Community Centre. Every student brought something that represented something about their identity to show to their new friends. It was such a brilliant day to be part of. At the end students didn’t want to leave and couldn’t wait to see their new friends at the next link day.
Into April and Year 3 pupils from The Olive School and Bentley Heath School, Birmingham met up for there 2ndlink day continuing building friendships and exploring ‘Who are We?’
April was a busy month of getting together, completed with an amazing day between students of Saint John Wall and Pioneers Academy. Fabulous conversations, new friendships, curiosity and lots of friendly smiles and giggles! Below are some of the girls’ reflections.
‘Before I met the girls from Pioneers Academy I felt nervous because I felt there were no similarities. But after I got to know them, I realised there weren’t that many differences. I made many new friends today and I hope I meet them again soon. I enjoyed watching the Islamic students pray; it was very graceful.’ Pamela
‘Before I met the students from St John Wall, I had not known much about other religions. I was surprised that I had learned to interact with others. Yay!’ Laibah
We have seen, heard and received some really positive comments and stories from teachers about the positive effect this programme has had on their students. Early conversations suggest that there will be a high retention rate of schools returning to the programme next academic year.
“I thought the training was fantastic and has really given me the confidence to deliver the day. All of the activities have given me an opportunity to develop a relationship with my link partner” Linking Teacher
‘’A well organised day which provided super opportunities to meet teachers from other link schools and plan and discuss ideas together’’ Linking Teacher
“I have been incredibly encouraged by the passion and commitment of teachers and SLT in the schools that we are working with. In the backdrop of a busy education system that leaves little space at times for creative projects and character development it would be easy to allow projects like this to slip – this has not been the case and it has been a privilege to work with teachers and SLT who see the huge value in this programme” Richard Pringle, Faith and Belief Forum (F&BF)
Amy Ark, Programmes Co-ordinator, The Faith & Belief Forum, firstname.lastname@example.org
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Or take a look at our website to find out more https://faithbeliefforum.org/programme/school-linking/