Special school – Mainstream school linking

04 July, 2023

‘As a Special School we thought it was really important for our children to experience working with, playing with, being alongside typically developing peers which they don’t have the opportunity to do here at school.’ Debbie Sweet, Headteacher at Highbury Special School, Calderdale.

This was just one of the reasons why Highbury Special School wanted to link with a mainstream school – The Greetland Academy. Both schools were also keen to raise awareness through the partnership of disability – both obvious such as physical disabilities and hidden such as Autism.

This sharing of the aims for the link by the Headteachers at the outset was a crucial starting point for this partnership – making sure that each school was clear about what they wanted for their children and to ensure as far as possible that there was understanding and equity.

There then followed a training session, hosted by Highbury, so that the mainstream teachers could begin to understand the context and needs of the children with whom they would be linking. At this training, the lead teachers then adapted and amended The Linking Network’s materials so that they would be appropriate for their children – allowing them to get to know each other and prepare for meeting online and then face-to-face.

First, the children explored their own identity on bunting and identity maps, considering the question ‘who am !?’ These were exchanged between the schools and avidly read by their linking partners. They also introduced themselves via a video which was subtitled. The children enjoyed matching up the video introductions with the identity work and finding the things they have in common. ‘They support Spurs too!’

This led to the children having lots of ‘curiosity questions’ about their partners which were asked and answered during a fun, interactive video call.

All through this first phase of the linking journey, excitement was rising about the prospect of actually meeting. Finally the days of the class visits arrived when the Year 4 class of children from The Greetland Academy would meet the Panther Class from Highbury Special School.

There was time to build on the connections they had begun to make during the preparation phase.

The children from Highbury Special School enjoyed teaching those at Greetland how to sign along to ‘You’ve got a friend in me.’

Carefully planned accessible, collaborative activities enabled the children to learn together.

And also to simply have fun together.

Parents from both schools were delighted to learn about the link, immediately posting their reactions on social media – ‘I am so proud of Greetland Academy and Highbury. I am lucky enough to have kids in both schools.’ ‘This brought a tear to my eye!’ ‘Wonderful!’

The staff too were delighted with how well the children had responded to the link. They were curious, interested and loved making new friends.

‘What an amazing afternoon the Year 4 children have had with their friends from Highbury School. Just look at the joy on those faces! We are really lucky to be linked with such an amazing school.’ Helen Crowther, Headteacher at The Greetland Academy.

Special School Linking is taking place across the country for example in Newcastle, Tower Hamlets and Manchester. It provides a unique opportunity for the children involved to overcome any fears they might have of meeting new people and to build connections with others in a fun, collaborative and safe way.

If you’d like to know more or to see this work in action please take a look at this short film of special school – mainstream school linking in action. Click this link here to watch this film which is under 3 minutes.

For more information on how to get involved, contact Sarah Hetherington sarah.hetherington@thelinkingnetwork.org.uk

Want to stay up to date with the latest information and resources?

Sign up