A News story by Ellena Schuster-Farrell 14 November 2017

Building links with the community is vital in developing our academies and improving the lives of our children and young people.

Led by Headteacher Vicky Simcock, Parkwood E-ACT Academy in Sheffield is setting the bar with an impressive amount of community partnerships to improve social cohesion for its students.

“As an education professional, I have an obligation to make sure my students grow up as balanced, young individuals who can contribute successfully to society.”

Vicky believes that building so many community partnerships for Parkwood Academy will help to improve social cohesion in their area, which is ethnically diverse and among the poorest neighbourhoods in England.

“We live in an area where students are vulnerable and it’s easy for them to fall in with the wrong crowd or get into trouble, so I feel I have a duty to make sure social cohesion is as important to Parkwood Academy as successful GCSE exam results are.”

Vicky has been working hard to develop links with the local council, MPs and important dignitaries across Sheffield. She has also introduced a number of activities and initiatives to get students involved in their community.

The RUBIC Project

One of the key initiatives that the academy is involved with is the Respect and Understanding: Building Inclusive Communities project. The project trains young people in North Sheffield as Young Community Leaders to help heal tensions between different ethnic groups, communities and nationalities.

Building a diverse Academy Ambassador Group

Vicky has recruited a local councilor and the owner of local business Singh’s Premier stores onto her Academy Ambassador Group (AAG). She also encourages the participation of parents and students, leading to a diverse group where everyone is represented.

Support from local dignitaries and businesses

Local MP, Gill Furniss, and the local Mayor are regular visitors to half-termly awards ceremonies. Their presence spreads positivity among the students and helps build their self-esteem.

Community Manager Paul Howard has been instrumental in developing relationships with Tesco and Singh’s Premier Stores. They both support the academy and contribute to fundraising projects – such as a recent Macmillan Coffee Morning, where they contributed towards coffee and cakes. The owner of Singh’s also runs a football club in the evenings at the academy’s sport site.

Charity fundraising

In the past year, Parkwood has raised an amazing £20,000 for St Luke’s Hospice in Sheffield, over £1,000 for the Red Cross and £600 for the Grenfell Tower victims – all through student activities such as bag-packing, tuck shops raffles, summer and winter fairs. The student council runs its own tuck shop which raises money for residential trips for Year 7s who would not otherwise be able to afford to take part in them.

Representing the academy at key events

For the second consecutive year, Parkwood students have been chosen to give readings at Sheffield’s Holocaust Memorial Day.

“Given the diversity and ethnic mix we have among our students, I’m really proud to see them representing the school at the Holocaust event and remembering those who were victims of the atrocities.” – Vicky Simcock, Headteacher

Parkwood students have also been selected by Sheffield City Council to have a key role in the opening of the Council’s cohesion hub.

Raising aspirations

The academy has developed links with Sheffield University to help raise aspirations and give students a taste of university life. Students have the opportunity to tour the university and meet staff and students, as well as the chance to stay overnight in halls of residence when they reach Year 10.

Helping older people

Parkwood holds weekly coffee mornings for older people from local care homes, where they can bring in their knitting and share stories over coffee and cake. At Easter, Christmas and other occasions (such as Thanksgiving this year), students work together to serve dinners for a wider group of older people.

To sum up all the community activity going on at Parkwood, Vicky concludes:

“It’s about relationships, it’s about social integration, it’s about social cohesion and it’s about us understanding how we each live.”