15 Jun 2015

3FF School Linking 2013-14
Case Study Example from the Linking Programme

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Azhar Academy Muslim Girls’ and St Ursula’s Catholic Girls’ Secondary Schools

Azhar Academy is a Muslim girls’ school in East London, and St Ursula’s is a Catholic girls’ secondary
school in Greenwich. They Linked for the first time this year as lead teachers Kareema, Shabana and
Anna were keen for their students to actually get to meet and build relationships with young people
from different backgrounds. As Shabana explained, “our students don’t get much variety in who they
spend time with. They learn about different beliefs but don’t get to experience it.”
Both schools selected their linking students through an application process. Though initially unsure
of parent reactions to the link, teachers at Azhar were surprised to receive a large number of calls
from parents asking for their daughters to be included in the programme!
Inspired by hearing from other teachers at CPD days, they were determined to get the most for their
students through creative and though-provoking activities. Before meeting each other, students
were asked to design their own ‘identity boxes’. One student expressed that this was the most
challenging part of Linking for her: “it was so hard to think of what represents you and makes up
who you are. I hadn’t really thought that way about my identity before.”
Students enjoyed “meeting and socialising with different people” through the Link Days, which were
made up of activities such as jewellery making, exploring logos and badge making and team building
games at the local park. Highlights for the students included observing daily prayers – “it was a really
special opportunity” – to henna painting – “the girls were so excited they were queuing to get it
done!” Shabana described how “it was so hard to drag the students away at the final link as they
didn’t want to say goodbye. We ended up being late for our train back to school!”
For the teachers at Azhar, the programme directly contributed to helping students become
confident in their own identities and recognising its complexity: “they’ve come to realise their own
identities are very important and that there are many parts to it.” Anna noticed how the through the
programme, student were able to dramatically increase their understanding of different
communities and belief, which in turn helped to cultivate respect: “it’s made their language around
different beliefs and practices more sensitive. They’re much more aware of the diversity within a
tradition rather than saying things like ‘they all do this thing’”.
Students also described the Link as a “confidence boost, because I had to push myself to go and talk
to new people”. It also gave students a chance to “feel comfortable around people different to me to
prepare me for when I go to university or the work place.”
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But it’s been just as much of a journey for the teachers involved: “getting to experience different
backgrounds has really opened my eyes a lot. It’s been fun getting to know my link teachers and her
students.”
Example of a student ‘Identity Box’ and students working together at Link Day 1

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