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. In 2019/20 this increased to 18 classes, linking over 500 primary children.
We are pleased to say that we are still linking in 2020-21; 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, we have a large cohort of teachers experiencing linking for the first time. This year our linking is virtual, building a sense of togetherness with other children and connecting children to build their confidence in contact with others, as well as supporting the return to schools.
Under normal circumstances, 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.
Our neutral venue days usually 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. This 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. This year, the neutral venue visit has been replaced with a shared online theatre experience.
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 School (Y3) with Akaal Primary School (Y3 – Sikh School)
Both of these schools are Derby City Schools, though they have some obvious differences. When this partnership began, Akaal was a newly established state funded Sikh school, housed on a temporary site, with very little outside space. Since then the school has 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 their RE and ICT curriculum. Akaal has a strong emphasis on values being at the heart of their ethos.
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, 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.
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. Enthusiastically teaching the Lawn children about the 5ks, through an interactive talk and using the Sikh bear in their class. The children also 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.
Lawn took an innovative approach to linking, with two Year 3 class having their own partner school in the early days. As time has progressed the link with Akaal has blossomed, matured and become the focus of their linking work. Other linking partnerships have fallen by the wayside. The class link with Akaal Primary has been recognised as mutually beneficial to children from both schools. Children in Y6 often ask about the children they met from Akaal, say how much they would like to visit the new school and meet up again. This idea hasn’t been developed due to cost and timetable restrictions as yet. The intention from the senior leadership in both schools is to continue the programme in Year 3, training up new staff to lead on linking with their classes where necessary. The partnership has strong support from senior leaders in both schools and this is vital to ensure continued success.
This lovely quote from new teacher taking over a link at Lawn Primary Derby, to their partner teacher at Akaal Primary Derby, says it all: 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.
We would also like to thank Akaal Primary School, who kindly hosted our linking CPD afternoons in September 2019 and January 2020; we greatly appreciate their hospitality.
Contact: Yvonne Luce, Global Education Derby
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