Intergenerational North Lanarkshire Projects
In September 2009, a North Lanarkshire development officer (Quality Improvement Service) attended the Generations Working Together Summer School and was inspired to set up a strategic approach to increasing intergenerational practice in six secondary schools in her area, in partnership with Housing and Social Work Services. The schools were Kilsyth Academy, Clyde Valley High, Dalziel High School, Coatbridge High School, Caldervale High School and Cardinal Newman High School.
Clyde Valley High School focused on an existing project – the Japanese matsuri festival (Matsuri
祭 is the Japanese word for a festival or holiday). It encompassed art, dance, story telling and a tea ceremony. They shared the festival with residents of Lawview sheltered housing complex. (23 pupils – almost a quarter of the third year – became involved.) They visited the complex and residents visited the school and they discussed how the young often speak about older people in general, and vice versa. For the initial event, the two groups were a little wary of the situation but by the end, all participants mingled happily. Lawview residents are now ‘friends of Clyde Valley’ and are invited to events, celebrations and shows.
Kilsyth Academy held three events. The first, ‘Ages of Fun’, brought together older adults with students from different schools. The second project involved older adults from the local community who were invited to share in an exploration of the contrasting cultures of Scotland and Rwanda – Contrasting Cultures (Link to project page on this site). This grew out of an existing contact within the school with a Rwanda-based organisation. It also coincided with the Homecoming Year and they looked at ways Scottish culture had changed over the years. Many of the young people and teachers involved had taken part in the Columba 1400 leadership course and saw intergenerational working as an ideal way to put skills they had gained into practice.
Cardinal Newman High School hosted an event in October to celebrate International Older People’s Day. They brought together around 150 older adults with students from all the participating schools. Lunch was provided and a wide selection of intergenerational workshops were offered around different themes that encouraged genuine interaction between older and younger participants. A DVD was made of the event. Evaluations carried out with staff, pupils and the older adults involved were extremely positive and the work was seen, not only as providing opportunities for reciprocal learning but also as building community cohesion and breaking down some generational barriers.
The experience and the learning will be used to roll out the approach to include more of North Lanarkshire’s 24 secondary schools, including working with the Prince’s Trust xl clubs. Accreditation through the Millennium Volunteer Awards is also a possible option.
Commitment and partnership were key to the projects’ successes. Increasing opportunities for volunteering and generations working together is a corporate priority and strongly supported by management. Staff in schools and social work understood the projects’ value and all efforts were underpinned by effective partnership working between Learning and Leisure and Housing and Social Work Services. Building on work that was already happening in the school made integrating the intergenerational element easier than it might have been.
The projects also provided countless opportunities for interdisciplinary working, providing challenging, enjoyable and culturally relevant learning experiences – thus supporting the delivery of both the Curriculum for Excellence and entitlements set out in ‘Raising Achievement for All’ – Learning and Leisure’s overarching educational policy.
The projects were particularly valued by older people whose families do not live locally. Humour was also a key element. However the main challenge is how to sustain, develop and extend this work.
What people said:
‘Before this started, it was scary thinking about it, but once the ice was broken, and we started talking, we started mingling.’
‘At the start it was a bit awkward, but after the visits, it was like talking to an old friend.’
‘We talked about shoes. Dancing was our thing – that got us all mixed.’
‘I was sorry when it finished.’ ‘I have become more confident just working with older people. It has changed our perceptions but also it has changed their perceptions of young people.’ ‘It worked very naturally.’ ‘They enjoyed a laugh just like we did.’