The Nottinghamshire Schools Linking Programme launched in 2018, led by the Achievement and Equality Team at Nottinghamshire County Council, with support from The Linking Network. Through a carefully planned and research-led approach, underpinned by Social Contact Theory, it supports teachers to facilitate meaningful and positive sustained social mixing. A year-long programme of structured visits for paired classes and curriculum work, equips learners with the skills, confidence and knowledge to thrive in modern Britain. CPD training enables teachers to support their learners to develop trust, empathy, awareness and respect
Although it is still a relatively new programme, the Nottinghamshire linking teachers feel very positive about both their training and the effect of linking on their pupils: Some teachers have linked before: I am looking forward to having new pupils taking part in the programme.
CPD was: Informative interesting supportive; I really enjoyed the sessions and (was) given lots of ideas; . ‘… interesting, interactive, fun, as well as informative, detailed and socially useful; (reminding us of...) the power of being different!; ‘… well organised, thought provoking and passionate.’; teachers left with ‘…an understanding of how linking works and (enjoyed) meeting my link partner (plus got new) ideas!’
Schools that linked this year said they became involved for a number of reasons: to widen pupils’ horizons; build pupils’ SMSC & personal development; improve community cohesion/social integration; develop speaking, listening and literacy skills and to build pupils’ confidence. A wealth of evaluation studies consistently shows that these are just some of the areas where children do benefit from linking: ‘TLN schools linking enables children and young people to explore identity, celebrate diversity, build community and champion equality through the development of mutual understanding, critical awareness and openness, empathy, respect for difference and active citizenship’ Shannahan, CPTSR, Coventry University, Schools Linking and Social Cohesion- An Evaluation of the National Programme 2018
In the 2019/20 academic year there were 16 classes from 11 schools working together to link a fabulous 450 children. Jesse Gray School and Sir Edmund Hillary were thrilled to get together for the first time; they had great fun making Fimo models of themselves, made a stop motion film and created their own city using features from both places!
The children were hoping to make class visits to both schools, to experience being hosts and guests, by turn. Great care is taken in structuring these visits, including reflection time, to unpack learning and experiences. Through-out the linking year, ongoing curriculum work on the themes of identity, diversity, community and equality is exchanged. Opportunities for dialogue, critical reflection and positive attitudinal development are encouraged.
CPD and linking may take different forms in the coming year, but the Nottinghamshire County Council team leading linking have no doubt that Nottinghamshire children and teachers will continue to thrive through the connections they make and are committed to supporting the impact.
We are always keen to meet the Nottinghamshire teachers and hear of the exciting experiences the children are having when they meet; we look forward to being in touch again for our linking in 2020-21.
Annie Kershaw, Achievement and Equality Team, Nottinghamshire County Council Ann.Kershaw2@nottscc.gov.uk