The Waltham Forest Schools Linking Programme is led by The Faith & Belief Forum and was launched in 2017. The Faith Belief Forum also leads very successful linking programmes in London and Birmingham, and is committed to making a difference to the lives of young people.
As of 19-20, the programme is in its third year and currently involves 14 classes; engaging over 300 young people from a mix of faith and non-denominational, primary and secondary schools. Waltham Forest SACRE have continued to be very supportive of our programme, encouraging our engagement with schools and also continuing to provide a free venue for our teacher CPD’s within the Town Hall.
The Schools Linking Programme aims to match students from different cultural or faith backgrounds to explore issues of identity, community and belief, based on their lived experience. Schools take turns to host their partner for the first or second link day, and many take the opportunity to include tours of or Q&A sessions in on-site or nearby places of worship. The third link day takes place in a neutral venue, a space mutually accessible and familiar. Spaces we have worked with include Lloyd Park and The Priory Community Centre.
Partnerships on this programme have benefitted from close proximity between partner schools. The localised model of the Waltham Forest programme has meant that teachers on the cohort have a great deal of crossover in their own school contexts and can work together easily. The relationships formed on the Waltham Forest Linking Programme have strengthened relationships formed through other local authority initiatives.
Teacher CPD Feedback:
‘I have really thought about my own identity today and what it means to me, and essentially how important it
‘This was a reminder that we share similarities and that we are able to live with tolerance and respect with our differences’
‘Dialogue is a conversation not a competition!’
‘I feel more confident to develop meaningful encounter between different schools’
This year there will continue to be two fantastic linking partnerships between Al-Noor Primary and Our Lady and Saint George’s Primary. On the first link day between two of the classes last year, students explored their own individual identity before sharing their findings in groups. After several activities and play, the OLSG students were invited to watch the Al-Noor students pray. Teachers guided the students through this experience, encouraging respectful behaviours. Following this, they visited the small church in OLSG’s local area, where students held a Q&A and explored similarities and differences between their practices. This was an opportunity for students in both classes to increase religious literacy, as well as practice intercultural dialogue skills.
Pupils were enthused about learning more about Christianity, now that they have friends from a Catholic School’ Lead Linking Teacher, Al-Noor Primary
In 2019 we were contacted by Louisa Parrales, the school’s first Lay Chaplain at Forest School, who expressed an interest in our School Linking Programme. We partnered Forest School with non-denominational Norlington Boys School, and Muslim-ethos Eden Girls School. After participating in our immersive interfaith dialogue facilitation training day at the Waltham Forest Town Hall, the three schools agreed to hold their first Link days at Forest School in the context of National Interfaith Week.
Link days involved a series of activities centred upon the key question, ‘Who Am I?’. Students from the three schools had the opportunity to explore and practice articulating their own identities, as well as to learn about each other. The day was a great success! What did the students have to say about their experience?
‘I increased my confidence in talking to new people’
‘I learnt more about the meaning of identity as a whole’
‘I have learnt that I have more in common with other people than I thought’
‘The session really helped me to learn lots of new things; for example when I thought about identity before I just thought about passports, fingerprints and DNA but now I think identity is about much more, it is about a person’s personality and the things that are important to them’
‘Next time I will sit with different people at lunch-time so I get to speak to every single girl!’
Linking teacher Will Lines told us ‘our boys really enjoyed the first link day, working with their contemporaries from Forest School. By exploring ideas around identity, they learnt a great deal not only about students from the linking school but were also prompted to examine their own ideas of community and belonging’.
Sarah Koster, Education & Learning Manager, The Faith & Belief Forum firstname.lastname@example.org
Evi Koumi, Education & Learning Officer, The Faith & Belief Forum email@example.com
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Or take a look at our website to find out more https://faithbeliefforum.org/programme/school-linking/