Luton Schools Linking Programme is led by Luton First Teaching School Alliance on behalf of Luton Borough Council. We have been linking since 2009. In the 2019/20 linking year we had 42 classes taking part in the project, engaging 1260 children from 16 primary schools.
Luton Local Authority provides us with £7,500 of funding each year, which covers some of the cost for a seconded position to run the programme. This has been written into the community cohesion strategy for the town and should continue every year for the foreseeable future.
Some schools start their linking, with a neutral visit at Stockwood Park Discovery Centre. The children enjoy corresponding with their their link class in advance of getting together and the meeting prompts some interesting discussion regarding similarities and differences, getting to know new people and also heritage and family links around the world.
In November of last year, Faith Minister Lord Bourne visited the Stockwood Discovery Centre, a wonderful museum, to see first-hand the work of the Linking Programme in Luton. The Year 6 Pupils from two Luton Schools enjoyed looking at Carriages, Caravans and Lorries in the Museum collection before embarking on a truly joyful task in which they worked together to construct a carriage from Giant Meccano that could carry a member of the group across the large museum space. One of the Year 6 Pupils who was asked what their advice would be for other children before taking part in linking said ‘I would say jump straight in and make the most of the opportunity.’
Faith Minister Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth, visiting the Linking Meeting said:
“Schools Linking is a great example of how children and young people from different backgrounds can come together to meet, learn and share interests that help them prepare for life in modern Britain and make them great citizens of the future… The government is determined to support programmes such as these to ensure young people from all backgrounds have the opportunity to take part in challenging and rewarding experiences.”
Case Study: Hillborough Junior and St Margaret of Scotland Catholic Primary School
One of our most successful links is also the longest established, between Hillborough Junior School and St Margaret of Scotland Catholic Primary School. Three Year 5 classes from each school meet up throughout the year and also have a celebration event in a nearby park. The schools are in close proximity to each other and many of the children meet in the communal areas of the community and come into regular contact. Through the project, two of the children involved have become very good friends with each other and now correspond as penpals. The children were keen to keep in touch with each other outside of the project; all of the children thoroughly enjoyed the days that were organised for them.
As both schools have taken part in the project since it was established, younger children in the school are very aware of it and are excited to be taking part when they reach Year 5 themselves. It has become an integral part of our varied curriculum. A participating teacher commented:
“I have loved the Linking Network this year because I’ve got to know different people and different ways of living. I found out things I didn’t know about different religions, cultures and just other places in Luton. I want to do it again!”
Some of the participants wrote about their Linking Science Day:
On a special day, our school linking network friends (St Margaret’s) came for an interesting, exciting and social day. Some of the activities included astronaut training and making our own imaginative planets. Unfortunately, we could not get the planetarium in but that didn’t stop us from having fun. We made lots of new friends, discovered more about each other and learned about space and planets. In the astronaut training we did many things such as press ups and we played stuck in the mud for a warm up. We did differences and similarities with Mrs Carew. We showed them around the school. We also had break and lunch with them. Sadly, at the end of the day we had to say goodbye. We were sad to see them go but, we are excited for our next visited!
The Linking Network in Luton is as strong as ever and helps us to bring our communities together. We are very proud of the links we have forged between schools, and many individuals continue to maintain these even after the project has ended. We are also very proud of the organisations in Luton which support the Linking Network and do other important work in the community, such as Bedfordshire Police, Luton Council of Faiths and Luton Culture. We work together to try and include our young people in the development of a varied, diverse and enthusiastic community.
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To see who is involved this year, take a look at Luton First Teaching School Alliance