Led by the Ethnic Diversity Service (Stockport Council), the Manchester Schools Linking Programme (initially with Stockport) launched independently in 2017 with 14 classes. Interest in the programme has more than doubled since then; in the 2019/20 academic year linked 34 classes from 21 local schools, engaging almost 1,000 children! Linking provides an opportunity for staff and pupils to celebrate the similarities and be comfortable with the differences with schools from across the city and beyond.
In 2020-21, we are still taking part in linking, virtually; building a sense of togetherness with other children and creating shared learning adventures from within the classroom. This year, instead of meeting at a neutral venue, our children will be able to view a shared online theatre performance, with specially created activities around social action.
In a ‘normal’ linking year, our neutral venues offer a range of activities and include: Z-Arts (a creative arts centre offering drumming, street dance, drama, screen printing, pottery, singing); Lyme Park (National Trust) (den building, orienteering, outdoor art); The People’s History Museum (mosaic and clay) and NK Theatre Arts (drama and performing arts). Some of our partner schools are so close they walk to each other on visit days. For others, it can take an hour to travel to each school. Regardless of the distance, all have found common ground. Staff and children have shared experiences, have learnt from each other, have laughed and eaten together. Schools Linking has provided the structure for long lasting relationships between schools.
Case Study: Crosslee Community Primary School, Manchester and Alexandra Park Primary School, Stockport have been linking 2 classes of Year 4 pupils for the past 2 years. With a geographical difference of 14 miles, Crosslee in north Manchester and Alexandra Park in Stockport have met at Zarts, Manchester to complete shared art work and choreograph collaborative street dance routines. Schools Linking has helped both groups of children to share stories of shopping in the same places, walking in the same parks or following the same football teams. All children have met with each other to explore their similarities and differences and develop skills to make friends and talk confidently with each other. Dave Seneviratne Year 4 teacher at Alexandra Park reflects on Linking this past year:
What is your favourite Schools Linking resource and why? The amount and variety of resources available through the School Linking website is amazing. I found the visible and invisible differences activity and PowerPoint particularly useful. This helped the children to clearly see the diverse world in which they live. It was nice to see children realise they had things in common with people who they wouldn’t expect.
What has been the impact of Schools Linking on your class? Schools Linking is the best way for children to understand and experience the diverse world in which we live. I have seen first-hand how children learn and practise social skills and the barriers that these new found skills and knowledge, help to break down.
Case Study: Arden Primary School, Stockport and Birchfields Primary School, Manchester have been linking for eight years- an established link professionally for staff and for the children who have passed through Year 4. Gemma Abbott has been Arden’s link teacher for the whole of their linking journey. She reflects, “All of the classes that I have brought through this process have had one common thread – they have begun the process fearful and nervous and ended it sad because they will miss their new friends! They have gained a great awareness of other cultures and traditions and lost the stereotypes that they previously held (whether they were aware of them or not) of people from different religions and cultures. I have seen many children develop their ability to make friends and improve their social skills – gaining confidence as the linking year has gone on.”
Case Study: Ashbury Meadow, Manchester have been linking with St Mark’s CoE Stockport for two years. Two schools in different locations, serving different communities. Ashbury Meadow with 13% white British population and St Mark’s with 87% white British population . Both schools have enjoyed learning about their similarities and celebrating their differences. The children have gained a better understanding of their own identities and those of others; exchanging work including class photos, poetry and jigsaw pieces which introduce themselves to each other. Over this past year of linking, teachers have noticed a growing confidence within their class.
Children were asked at the beginning of the year, how worried do you feel meeting new people? The average across the classes was 3/5, but by the end of the year, the average had increased to 5/5 showing that children anxieties had reduced significantly. They were also asked, how happy are you speaking to children from other schools? At the beginning of the year the average was 2/5 and at the end the average had increased to 4/5 showing a positive shift and confidence.
Visits to build dens at Lyme Park and class visits to each school followed which all added to positive relationships being formed and skills being developed in speaking and listening. Children built their own parks, working together to create a piece of play equipment, they played games to find out more about each other, and explore the idea of a ‘Freedom Park.’ What could they do to create a park where everyone was welcome.
The schools are so different, yet so similar. The children brought their differences. Different stories, languages, cultures, religions and experiences. But through the differences, the smiles, the laughter and fun was the same. Another successful year of linking!
“It is a fantastic project which helps to develop the children’s intercultural competence!” KS Leader, Armitage Primary, Manchester
“The SLP is a really beneficial project because it allows children to meet children from different backgrounds, different cultures, different places and find out that we are all the same and we celebrate our similarities and differences.” Learning Mentor
Julie-Ann McCulloch, Ethnic Diversity Service, Stockport Council email@example.com
or Sarah Beardwood, firstname.lastname@example.org
Follow us on Twitter @SK1_MCR_Beyond @StockportMBC
Or take a look at our website with Stockport: Stockport Schools Linking Project