We have a variety of activities and techniques that we use at Stanley Grove to promote pupil welfare and wellbeing.
Through a series of ‘Experiential Audits’ we have found that the children our school serves have limited life experiences including those that many take for granted, such as going with their family to a museum or even visiting Manchester’s city centre. We term this as ‘poverty of experience’ which will have a serious impact on world view, confidence and aspiration. There are many complex reasons for this including: the way many people feel alienated and socially excluded from places like museums and galleries and the lack of confidence parents speaking English as a second language feel going to unfamiliar places. Also the high level of deprivation suffered by our community makes accessing even free activities beyond many of our families means once travel and catering is taken into account. Our work is aimed at overcoming this and enriching the opportunities for our pupils and families by creating experiences open to the whole Longsight community.
Studies show that children have better life chances the more they do as a family and the more they visit and take part in cultural events. The Social Mobility Commission study (published 9th June 2016) describes the childhood origins of social mobility. It uncovers a wide social divide between children from families with high and low socio-economic status (SES) in building the childhood foundations for mobility in later life. Within this study there are three areas of significance to our projects where the gap between those children with high and low SES is getting wider and is having a significant impact on social mobility. They are: Parents taking their children to cultural places and events, families having access to extra-curricular activities, and the time spent with parents engaged in developmental activities like playing and reading, known as parental time investment. Families engaging in the activities our festivals and events provide, can be part of addressing these issues and therefore help to increase children’s social mobility and chances in life.
Through our ‘Building the Bridge’ projects, members of our community gain access to places of interest and learning many were not aware of. They are able to get a taste of the provision on offer and increase their confidence in the city’s cultural assets as welcoming places of interest and relevant to them and their families.
Attendees and volunteers at our festivals and events have opportunities to meet people such as authors, curators, sport people, artists and scientists. This expands experiences and widens outlook. The volunteering opportunities, access to organisations and activities beyond usual experiences, could all lead to increased confidence and employability and therefore improve the life chance of people within our community. Although there are other events in Longsight they tend to be on a smaller scale and/or are aimed at one particular group. Creating larger events allows the opportunity to bring people together across all faiths, ethnicities and backgrounds which strengthens us as a community. People have the opportunity to meet and interact through fun, stimulating and educational activities celebrating books and family reading as well as Manchester’s wider offer.
Producing ambitious events can be inspirational; increasing pride in coming from and living in Longsight, with people feeling uplifted by the achievement and encouraging others to engage and make more happen in and for our community. Creating and delivering our festivals and events can help our community feel that Longsight is a place, where through working together, we can celebrate who we are, get things done and bring about positive change.
By inviting other schools to join our projects also helps to build our community cohesion. This happens through sharing resources and the expertise of staff but also allowing children from different schools across our community to interact. This leads to closer ties and further collaborations in a competitive school system.
‘Building the Bridge’ began in the autumn term of 2015. Since then we have organised over 75 workshops, events, parades and festivals, across Manchester; in others schools, libraries, the Manchester Museum and the Whitworth but predominately in Longsight locations including, the Pakistani Community Centre and Longsight Library as well as our school. The combined attendance figures for these events stands at over 15,000 which include families of children from seven different schools as well as our own. The feedback has been tremendous with 94% of attendees requesting further events and rating them as ‘excellent’. When asked (at one event involving The Manchester Museum) ‘Has attending this event made it more likely that you will visit the Museum?’ 72% responded positively. This ties in with the audit we completed after the first year of bringing the cultural assets to Longsight. Our pupils visiting the Manchester Museum with their parents leapt from 0.5% to 20.5%.
We are now working on year three of our Building the Bridge project. We started year one focusing on the Whitworth and Manchester Museum but through our work have developed many more partnerships with Manchester’s social and cultural assets over the period including: Jodrell bank, The Manchester Children’s Book Festival, Manchester Library Service, a range of departments at the University of Manchester and Manchester Metropolitan University, and The National Football Museum who attend our events working with us to build the bridge between our community and the rest of Manchester.
Our activities since the start of the project in 2015 have provided over 500 volunteering opportunities. This has had a real impact with 86% of participants saying it had increased their confidence. This may lead to better employability chances for our community.
According to the organisation End Child Poverty’s figures published in November 2016 the child poverty rate nationally stands at 29%. Comparatively Longsight’s child poverty rate is 43.23%. Supporting families to access, plan, help to run and attend free educational and social activities on their doorstep is key to widening experiences and aspirations. To quote an attendee of one of our events… ‘This is the first time we have gone anywhere as a family of seven’.
We believe that schools should be the beating heart of the community. Our way of working directly supports our pupils and families but also plays a vital role in creating interest in Longsight as a whole; pulling in in funding, providing volunteering opportunities, ensuring access to a wider experience for all, bringing groups and schools together and ultimately playing a role in regenerating our community.
This could benefit every child in Longsight, not just our own pupils.
In Years 5 and 6 pupils are taught mindfulness as part of our Physical Development, Health and Wellbeing curriculum. Mindfulness is all about learning to direct our attention to our experience as it unfolds, moment by moment, with open-minded curiosity and acceptance. Rather than worrying about what has happened or might happen, it trains us to respond skilfully to whatever is happening right now, be that good or bad. Mindfulness practice alters the structure and function of the brain in ways that appear to be linked to improved concentration, mood regulation and the ability to choose appropriate responses to situations.
Key staff have been trained to deliver the .breathe curriculum through the Mindfulness in Schools Project (http://mindfulnessinschools.org/) and was developed as part of a large scale research project called ‘Healthy Minds’ by Bounce Forward, in partnership with the London School of Economics (LSE) which had favourable results for emotional and behavioural health and well-being.
The .breathe programme is targeted at children aged between 9 and 14 and is designed to give children tools for transition. We will cover: Working with concentration and focus; exploring how we can work with a wandering mind; Why humans worry, and how to support ourselves when we do so; Sleep: why it is important and what to do if we struggle to sleep well; Being with others: the opportunities and challenges of working skillfully with friendships and other relationships, both in person and online.
There are also opportunities for staff and children from across the school to attend mindfulness sessions periodically and a mindfulness and yoga club for key stage 2 runs in afternoons for part of the year.