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Community engagement - Deeplish Primary Academy

January 9, 2023, 12:36 GMT+1
Read in about 8 minutes
  • A deeper understanding of a school's relationship with the surrounding neighbourhood can help address challenging issues with pupils, explains Hannah Rowe
Community engagement - Deeplish Primary Academy

I have worked at Deeplish Primary Academy for three years. In that time, as vice principal, I have seen the school continue to improve in leaps and bounds, despite the pandemic - thanks to both teachers and the community’s support.

I’m proud to work where I live and give back to my locality and the future adults of our community. Teaching where I grew up, and once attended school, allows me to offer support from a comparative perspective. Understanding how the mindset of our pupils is formed by their surroundings enables me to be effective in my job.

Community cohesion

We are fortunate to be surrounded by a wonderful community here in Rochdale, and we’re very aware that building good relationships locally is incredibly important in enhancing student learning. The children are taught to understand and appreciate the importance of where they live, and helping those in need. These are topics we cover as part of our community cohesion lessons within PHSE, alongside themes such as business and enterprise. Our pupils need to leave Deeplish having been prepared for what the future might look like for them. PSHE helps children and young people to be safe, healthy and ready for life’s opportunities.

Community cohesion covers an extensive array of topics linked to society. This year, children have been learning about the importance of charity and the role it plays in supporting those in need.

The project’s learning objectives included the role that money can play in life and, therefore, how to keep it safe, what being part of a community means, and how to support groups both locally and nationally.

We encourage the children to research, discuss and debate topical issues, such as homelessness, crime and the justice system – and what support they can offer.

Being supportive and engaged

Charity and fundraising are brilliant tools for involvement in your locality, but we don’t stop there. We teach our pupils about options such as volunteering, donating, and even supporting local businesses. Having a personal understanding of the school’s relationship with the surrounding neighbourhood can act as a bridge when addressing challenging issues with pupils.

We wanted to connect our annual enterprise project to the PSHE curriculum this year, by linking it to a local initiative called ‘Raising Rochdale’. Its vision is for Rochdale to meet the needs of all children and young people with SEND from birth to the age of 25 years.

With Raising Rochdale in mind, we devised an enterprise project to engage our pupils with supporting people in need. We believe that when children are physically and emotionally close to their home, family and community, they can be supported to build resilience, awareness and to achieve positive outcomes in life.

Annual charity project

Each year, we implement an annual charity project as part of our curriculum. The children are given a list of charities that we can support, which encourages them to delve into local issues and challenges, and is an exercise in democracy. This year we picked five local charities and, after an assembly discussing what each organisation does, we let the children vote for their chosen charity.

In our most recent enterprise project, pupils were split into small groups, each receiving £50 to create a product that would generate profit for the pupil-chosen Springhill Hospice, a specialist palliative care unit.

The pupils made a range of products, including photo frames, vases and flower arrangements, key chains, necklaces, bracelets, stress balls, calendars and rocky road cakes, which they then sold to families, friends and neighbours.

The pupils have, in the past, written letters and made artwork for the residents and staff of the hospice during lockdown, to show their support and thank the staff for all their hard work during the Covid pandemic. This relationship allowed discussions to take place around loss and bereavement and for the children to experience these conversations in a safe environment.

The children raised just short of £800 for the hospice, and a representative from the charity came to visit the school to thank them for their donation, and to tell them how the money would be used to make a real difference to patients and staff. The family members of some of our pupils have relied on the care of the hospice, and came in to school to tell their stories, so it is close to our hearts here at Deeplish.

The school staff, meanwhile, also learnt lessons by engaging with the project, and reported that projects involving the local community had great meaning and added depth to the curriculum.

Respect for duty and service

It was clear that, following our project and fund-raising activities, the pupils demonstrated a deeper understanding and respect for the duty and service that people who work within the NHS provide.

Staff at the hospice commented that it had been a tough year for fund-raising and they were thrilled with the support from Deeplish. The money raised will allow them to offer counselling sessions and visits from specialist palliative care nurses to patients in their own home.

Our involvement with the community, and the hospice in particular, raised awareness among the pupils about the need for good relations, and taught them how to be successful members of society. We believe that community involvement is crucial for cementing a school’s reputation as a welcoming, caring and supportive place. We have found that these links contribute to extra curriculum learning, and having an established network of local relationships can be a valuable asset for schools.

Who we are:  What’s the context of the school and local community?

Deeplish Primary Academy is located in Rochdale, Greater Manchester. The school currently has over 400 pupils, reflecting the diverse surrounding areas and a vibrant and supportive community.

Our community
The school works hard to teach pupils the importance of giving back to the community and supporting those in need. It is important for our pupils to become lifelong learners who thrive in an educational environment, feel safe, have fun and enjoy success. Our pupils are at the heart of everything we do. Social cohesion in a town such as Rochdale means cooperation despite differences; it minimises marginalisation and discrimination whilst improving the quality of life for many community members. We have found that an involved cohesive community encourages our pupils to form healthy and robust relationships with individuals from all walks of life.

Our school
Our school has 439 pupils with an attendance score of 96.7%. It is a member of the Focus-Trust – a charitable primary school trust based in the Northwest of England and West Yorkshire, with a vision of providing great education at the heart of communities where children can thrive, achieve, and succeed.    

Hannah Rowe is Vice Principal at Deeplish Primary School, Rochdale