Blackburn with Darwen
Led by Blackburn with Darwen Council, the Schools Linking Programme was established in 2017 and is steadily growing; in the 2019/20 academic year we brought together an amazing 56 classes (0ver 1,400 pupils)! There is a real commitment from teachers and head teachers, working in partnership with the local authority, to bring students together across the district. Although we have had to pause during the pandemic, we were able to re-launch our virtual linking programme in September 2021, with 32 classes still linking. We are looking forward to seeing familiar faces and welcoming new schools for Linking in 2022-23.
The Redeemer CE Primary and St Matthew’s CE Primary Schools
In 2018/19, Year 4 pupils from The Redeemer CE Primary School in Ewood and St Matthew’s CE Primary School in Audley, came together three times for activities that aim to help build bridges between children from different cultural backgrounds. Together, the children, aged eight and nine, took part in lively classroom activities that explored themes around identity and belonging, aiming to create a sense of togetherness. Pupils also exchanged work throughout the year. As a final celebration of their new friendships, the two schools came together at Blackburn Rovers Indoor Centre for a day of games and fun activities. Margaret Prescott, Assistant Headteacher at The Redeemer CE Primary School, spoke about the link: ‘The children from The Redeemer and St Matthew’s have met three times during this school year, including a visit to each other’s schools. It has been a great experience to witness our children coming together, having fun and finding out so many things about each other. The children have become friends.’
Thomas Woodward, Year 4 class teacher at St Matthew’s CE Primary School, agreed: ‘The Schools Linking project has provided our children with a worthwhile experience they otherwise wouldn’t have had. It was really good for the children to see that, whilst upon immediate inspection the children had lots of differences, when they spoke to each other, got to know each other and asked questions, they found a whole host of similarities.’
Pleckgate High and Roe Lee Park Schools
Pupils from Pleckgate High School and Roe Lee Park Primary School also enjoyed an end of term celebration with their Linking partners, which brought together Year 7 pupils at Pleckgate with Roe Lee Park’s Year 6s. They marked the event with an Interfaith Day, supported by Blackburn with Darwen’s Interfaith Forum, that was reported in The Shuttle. Pupils studied a variety of religious artefacts and collaborated on artwork inspired by different religions. Jenny Savage, Head of Religious Studies at Pleckgate High School, said: ‘Forty-seven Roe Lee pupils joined our Year 7s. It was a huge success and allowed pupils the opportunity to meet and converse with children and adults who, although may be different from them in some ways, also have lots of things in common.’ Click here to learn more about Pleckgate High and Roe Lee Park Schools’ fabulous multi-faith celebration.
In March 2020, a group of girls from Pleckgate High and Islamiyah School went on a train trip together, where they learned about a Community Rail Lancashire competition called ‘Women Who Wander’ and they met a female conductor. They went all the way to Littleborough, with each pair getting to know each other on the journey. Two of the girls who had been paired up were talking and soon discovered that they had family in common and were soon to be cousins! Pleckgate High and Islamiyah School.
St Cuthbert’s RC Primary and St Michael with St John CE Primary Schools
At the end of the autumn term, the historic 16th century building was the setting for the first Schools Linking day between St Cuthbert’s RC Primary School in Darwen and St Michael with St John CE Primary School in Blackburn, where the Year 4 classes got some inspiration to write spooky stories during a day spent together at Turton Tower. Getting to know you activities in pairs encouraged the eight and nine year olds to think about their identity, which helped them create characters for their own short stories.
Tamzin Royale, Year 4 teacher at St Michael with St John’s, shared her thoughts with us about the day: ‘The children were a little nervous before we arrived as they didn’t know what to expect. The set-up of the day helped the children immensely by starting with a shared experience of the mystery tales. This enabled them to have conversations with their new friends when they got into partners. Our children were disappointed when the day ended, but are excited to meet up with their St Cuthbert’s friends again in the spring term.’
Levi Wolfenden, Year 4 teacher at St Cuthbert’s: ‘The children really engaged with the whole experience and quickly got to know their new friends. Meeting in a neutral environment was a big help in breaking the ice. Looking around the building together was a good way to start our first linking day. It’s been a fantastic experience for my class.’
Young pupil Noorulain from St Michael & St John CE Primary School also commented: ‘I feel happy because we got to play with each other and learn new things and talk to different people. Turton Tower is a great place to have fun with other people. They told us interesting stories.’
Hear from more pupils from St Cuthbert’s RC Primary School and St Michael with St John CE Primary School talking about their feelings before and after their Schools Linking experience, in this short video.
Jayne Ivory, Blackburn with Darwen Borough Council’s Director of Children’s Services & Education: ‘It is so important that children growing up in different parts of Blackburn with Darwen have chances to come into contact to learn from one another, to explore different cultures and religions, and to make friends. Schools Linking activities are a really fun and engaging way to do this, while being relevant to the curriculum and supporting other work pupils are doing in class.
Schools Linking has been nationally recognised as contributing to how schools can support their pupils’ spiritual, moral, social and cultural development. I’m really pleased that we can offer the programme to Blackburn with Darwen schools, and that so many are taking part this year.
Councillor Mohammed Khan, former Leader of Blackburn with Darwen Borough Council also shared his thoughts on the work being done here: ‘Children and young people are vital to the success of our social integration plans. That’s why one of the four priorities of the Our Community, Our Future programme focuses specifically on this age group. It’s so important that our young people have opportunities to grow up together and form friendships beyond the school they attend and their immediate neighbourhoods.’
‘The Schools Linking work has proven to be a very successful way of breaking down any barriers between children from different cultural and religious backgrounds – while the children are enjoying one another’s company and learning from each other. Schools Linking has been nationally recognised as contributing to how schools can support their pupils’ spiritual, moral, social and cultural development. I’m really pleased that we can offer the programme to more Blackburn with Darwen schools, and I hope they take the opportunity to get involved.’
Sharifa Valli, Blackburn with Darwen – firstname.lastname@example.org
and Alison Ashworth Taylor –email@example.com
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