The Schools Linking Project in Oldham aims to provide meaningful interaction between children and young people from diverse communities. It improves social mobility and breaks down barriers amongst communities. The service supports schools to link together and build relationships and friendships. It develops the work around British Values and SMSC. It supports the transition from primary to secondary school in terms of confidence in young people meeting and learning together. The aims of the project are:
- Promote attitudinal change at a personal level
- Increase awareness and knowledge of different cultural and social perspectives
- Increase awareness and knowledge of commonality of interests and life-experience
- Challenge young people to reflect on preconceptions and stereotypical views
- Empower young people to take responsibility for their contribution to community cohesion
- Support the transition for young people from primary school to secondary school
It is important that the Linking Project help children and young people develop key character traits to be well rounded and respectful citizens who can contribute to their community. These include confidence, caring, resilience, tolerant, respect, communication and neighbourly.
We aim to empower children and young people to make their own decisions and choices and prepare them for their future.
The Schools Linking Project is also a key partner to the new Oldham Pledge Initiative in Oldham ensuring that opportunities are develop key character traits for children and young people’s future.
A story from Oldham
The Link between St Hilda’s CE Primary and South Failsworth Primary has been in existence for more than 10 years and is an integral part of the school diary, school ethos and core offer to pupils from both schools. Although only 5 miles apart the schools and the communities they serve are very different. Their participation and commitment to the Linking project brings them together.
Over the years the schools have linked in various forms; Class swaps, joint school visits and trips, shared cultural visits to different places of worship, school council visits to Mayor’s parlour, council chambers, magistrates court and citizenship ceremonies (British Values) Leadership Conferences for pupils ,Teacher exchanges and joint CPD opportunities and even joint Governor training.
The Link has now been refined into a model which sees intense partnership working with Y2 classes over the entire year; visiting each other’s schools and local communities and taking part in lessons learning together. This is then developed through sharing and responding to cultural theatrical performances together (M6Theatre) as well as visiting local amenities for outdoor learning opportunities (Castleshaw centre and Alexandra park)
Running parallel to this aspect of the Link is the work of the school council/Pupil Parliament. This involves children of all ages from 6-11 who have been elected to be the pupil voice representatives from both schools. Early in the year they begin a project developing their leadership skills which is facilitated by Suzy, the Local Authority Lead. The children work firstly on identifying and developing the key leadership qualities: Resilience, Communication, Empathy, Organisation, Delegation, Courage, Time Management, and then put their skills to the test by working collaboratively on an enterprise project such as costing and designing badges or T shirts. The children then take these new skills back to school to be further developed in their own setting or jointly on further projects.
Every year South Failsworth conduct an extended pupil survey in which a large sample of children from 4 – 11 years of age are asked their views and opinions on a range of issues. When they are asked about their relationships and treating everyone with respect it is common for them to cite their experiences with children from St Hilda’s as a significant influence on their understanding of mutual respect, even if it has been a significant time since direct contact.
We update a designated hall display to our linking project every year and throughout the year, children and parents reflect positively on the range of activities that are offered and the opportunities it clearly offers for learning about our friends at St Hilda’s and the community they represent.
We have had instances in the past of members of the community refusing or reluctantly engaging with our programme of events each year. That is an extremely rare occurrence now and reflects both the value the programme demonstrates and the opportunities to change hearts and minds in a sustained manner.
How others feel about the Linking programme
“Oldham has a history of segregation and perceived intolerance and cultural misunderstanding. Participation in the school Linking Project demonstrates what is actually being done to bring communities together, with the youngest community members being educated to challenge and knowledgeably respond to these perceptions.” Head Teacher in Oldham.
“I had great fun visiting South Failsworth school. It has a massive playground. My new friends like playing the same games as we do.” (I like this quote because the only differences the child noted upon were the physical aspects of school- and not the different culture or ethnicity of his new friends!!)
“Meeting my friends from St Hilda’s has made me realise how important everyone is and it doesn’t matter where they come from, what their religion is or what the colour of their skin is”. (Year 2 child)
Suzy Ashworth, Integrated Youth Service, Oldham Council