April 2, 2020
In the current climate and as we all try to adapt with the way the coronavirus has impacted on our lives, our academies have been giving a lot of thought to how they may be able to help the vulnerable and elderly within our communities. Northern Education Trust Kearsley Academy has decided to reach out to local care homes and sheltered housing facilities, in which many elderly and vulnerable people are feeling increasingly isolated due to the social distancing and self-isolation restrictions now in place.
Northern Education Trust recently implemented ‘Reading Routes’ for all its secondary academies. The programme aims to build a love of reading for leisure and pleasure, widen the cultural experience of student and ultimately broaden their learning beyond the curriculum. Students have embraced the programme as they immerse themselves into a variety of different texts that they previously not have envisaged themselves reading. Whilst helping to improve their confidence and self-esteem through developing their reading skills, Reading Routes has strengthened the school community through the shared experience of reading something that the academies feel could be reciprocated in the wider local area.
As part of the Reading Routes programme, there is a route map, based on the London Tube Map, which consists of 18 different routes (genres), with around 90 books in total along the routes. Each route interconnects and travels through the local area to meet with another of our secondary academies in our Trust: our route map connects Kearsley Academy in Bolton to Kirk Balk Academy in Barnsley (both are led by the Associate Executive Principal Dean Buckley).
Across each half term, students see the launch of a different route genre and are given a book of their choice from the route. Concurrently, staff are also reading a book from each route to further encourage discussions and build a sense of community based around reading. As a further reward, students are given personalised certificates for every 5 books they read, and each route they complete. If they achieve a magnificent 10 routes/50 books, they receive a kindle. Currently, there are several students well on course to achieve this in the coming months.
Consequently, senior leaders at Kearsley have approached local care homes to offer a connection to residents, to provide some respite from the isolation they may be feeling, by joining the Reading Routes challenge. Similar endeavours are occurring over in Barnsley. We are offering to loan books from the routes to residents, and hope in return they will share their thoughts and feelings about the books by writing a short review, which will then be shared with students in the academies. We are also hoping that students are able to respond back and hope to establish better links with all members of our community during these unprecedented times. This is particularly important as it allows valuable opinions from those outside of the academy and will subsequently help students when deciding which book to choose from future routes.
Dean Buckley, Associate Executive Principal, said: “We know many of our students, and staff, have elderly relatives or vulnerable family members who are feeling the negative effects of the restrictions now in place. Although they may be unable to have visits at the moment, we hope that joining our reading challenge will create a sense of connection to the school community, as well as the knowledge that they are helping students make future choices based on their influence. Now more than ever, it is important that we all work collectively and provide the opportunities to show solidarity. Together, through a love of reading, this provides a unique opportunity to further build links and entrench ourselves as a key part of the community which we are proud to be part of”