Adults behaving badly can learn a lot from the kids

Children are the real experts on community cohesion - St Norbert's pupils chilling out on beanbags. Photo (TIM WILSON): SG170415
Children are the real experts on community cohesion - St Norbert's pupils chilling out on beanbags. Photo (TIM WILSON): SG170415
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It’s often said if you want to get to grips with a computer – or any high-tech piece of kit – that you should ask a small child.

The question we probably wouldn’t dream of asking the little ones about would be how do people from so many different countries work and play nicely together here in South Holland?

Learning and playing together - girls have fun on the swings at St Norbert's. SG170415-129TW

Learning and playing together - girls have fun on the swings at St Norbert's. SG170415-129TW

But where adults sometimes falter – or behave badly – the children are leading the way.

Seven years ago, St Norbert’s Roman Catholic Primary School in Spalding had 17 per cent of pupils who spoke English as an additional language – now it’s 67 per cent with 15 nationalities under one roof.

A recent inspection of the school by the Nottingham Roman Catholic Diocesan Education Service described the behaviour of pupils across the school as “exemplary”.

Headteacher Louise Yarnell speaks of her pupils “getting along absolutely brilliantly” and has no doubt that the little classmates and playmates are leading the way for grown-ups to follow.

As a Catholic primary school whose teaching is founded on Gospel values we have always nurtured the principles of equality, fairness and understanding of all nationalities and faiths.

Headteacher Louise Yarnell

As well as British children, her school teaches pupils from Brazil, Ethiopia, France, Italy, India, Ireland, Latvia, Lithuania, The Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Spain and Vietnam.

We asked Mrs Yarnell what can adults learn from their kids so far as getting along with everyone is concerned?

She said: “Our children demonstrate exceptionally well the ability to treat others with respect which can set a clear example to all. We aim to empower them to become active, responsible citizens within our school, and local and national communities. They lead the way for others to follow.”

Does she think that when current school populations reach adulthood that our community will be better integrated than it is now?

Boys on the rope walk at St Norbert's. SG170415-135TW

Boys on the rope walk at St Norbert's. SG170415-135TW

Mrs Yarnell said: “We believe that the generation of children we have the pleasure of teaching are more inclusive and tolerant of others and aware of the richness that a multi-cultural community can offer. So yes I do feel they will be more integrated.”

St Norbert’s had to meet multiple challenges as the school community began to change.

Mrs Yarnell said: “The challenges initially were engaging family in school life and up-skilling our staff with professional development to support teaching and learning of children that were new to English. We overcame this by developing resources to support our children and their families, giving professional development to our staff and employing an EAL (English as an additional language) teaching assistant.

“We also launched community events to engage all families with the school, such as a European day of languages and culture week, and started our journey towards becoming a Rights Respecting School, which we achieved back in 2014.

Louise Yarnell, the headteacher at St Norbert's. SG170415-139TW

Louise Yarnell, the headteacher at St Norbert's. SG170415-139TW

“The appointment of an inclusion manager was pivotal in ensuring families with English as an additional languages had the best opportunities to reach their potential. The inclusion manager started a local EAL cluster group with fellow colleagues from other local primary and secondary schools to work together for the good of all children in Spalding.”

So how do the children from so many different nationalities get along?

Mrs Yarnell said: “As a Catholic primary school whose teaching is founded on Gospel values we have always nurtured the principles of equality, fairness and understanding of all nationalities and faiths.

“We always have celebrated the rich diversity of our school community.

“The children understand through our rights respecting work that they have rights and that ‘these rights are the same for every child’ across the world.

“All children are involved in promoting positive relationships, e.g. School Council, Young Leaders, Junior Road Safety Officers, Chaplaincy team, Eco Ambassadors, Playground Leaders, Peer Tutors and EAL buddies to name a few.”

l County education’s inclusion and attendance manager Jill Chandar-Nair says there are more than 7,000 children in Lincolnshire’s schools with English as an additional language.

She said: “Rather than see this diversity as a challenge to their school, most have embraced it by using it as an opportunity to share new cultures with Lincolnshire children and introduce the British and local culture to our new communities.”

‘They don’t integrate at all’

There was a Connecting Communities celebration day for our diverse population at Springfields in April 2013.

Co-organiser Diana Gajek, from Spalding’s Polish Education Centre, sees no point in holding another because adults from different nations aren’t mixing.

She said: “I don’t think they integrate at all.”

Diana has anecdotal evidence “that Lithuanian people hate Polish people in the factories” – and knows of a Polish mum in a South Holland village being repeatedly set upon by an English family as she walks her children to school.

Diana said police say they can’t act without evidence so the mum is now recording the incidents.

But Insp Jo Reeves told us: “Police have had no reported incidents of anti-social behaviour or assaults of this nature, whether hate crime or otherwise.”

She said police take hate crime seriously and “it is vital that the public report such incidents to us to enable us to eradicate such inexcusable behaviour”.