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Social Innovation at Parkside Primary School

Social Innovation at Parkside Primary School

Social Value is at the heart of how we operate at Linkcity, with the Social Value Act 2012 embedded into our company ethos, sitting firmly within our Connect 2025 business strategy. Whilst our developments are under construction, Social Value must be delivered regardless of whether this is required by a client or not. Social Value is in our DNA, it is as simple as that.

When the Covid-19 pandemic hit, Linkcity’s development – The Riverside at Canterbury – had only been on site for a few months. As a result, we had to respond quickly in order to continue to successfully deliver our Social Value commitments across the UK, but particularly on this development where relationships had only recently been established and were now all being developed virtually.

During one of the monthly stakeholder engagement meetings, the new Head Teacher at Parkside Primary School, Anthea McLevy, came forward asking for help to keep the school open and continue to provide good quality education and facilities to their pupils.

Located within The Northgate Ward in Canterbury, the school is situated in a very deprived part of the borough where statistics showed that in September 2019:

  • 27% of children were living in poverty; the highest rate in the area.
  • High rates of unemployment, with 2.4% of residents claiming Job Seekers Allowance.
  • The highest rate of mental health service contact for children and young people within the district.
  • One of the lowest life expectancies in the district: 75.6 years for men and 80.9 years for women.
  • Over 15% of households are in fuel poverty.

The school supports many families through food donations, financial support or outside agency support where needed. Currently, the school has 117 pupils. Of these, 77 are eligible for Free School Meals; some 66% of the school. The national average for the number of children eligible for Free School Meals is 17% across England.

Given the school’s proximity to The Riverside at Canterbury, and having learnt the issues they were facing, our Social Value team began to design a Social Value programme tailored especially to the needs of Parkside Community Primary School. Whilst our development for Canterbury City Council was live on site, we worked in partnership with main contractor Bouygues UK, adapting and innovating to provide as much support as we could to the school throughout the pandemic.

When putting together the Social Value programme, we had to consider what we could offer and if any of that could be face-to -ace, covid guidelines permitting. As we approached the summer months, we looked at ways of allowing the children to learn whilst keeping it dynamic. The obvious solution was to move some teaching outside.

So, during the summer of 2020 we:

  • Volunteered and laid topsoil in the garden so grass could grow, and children could enjoy being outside
  • Tidied up the garden enabling the children to grow their own fruit and vegetables
  • Donated wooden cable reels from our Riverside project to be used as outside tables, allowing children to learn outside. The pupils also enjoyed painting these to brighten up the garden.

As the weather then started to change and the children needed to be indoors more, we adapted our approach and donated

  • 100 Surgical masks
  • 100 Ventilation Mask FFP 1
  • 100 Ventilation Mask FFP 2

during the late summer and autumn of 2020, for the purposes of staff and volunteer safety. With the cost of these masks being almost £1000, it meant a huge cost saving for the school.

In the spring of 2021, when all schools were forced to shut down again by the Government, we kept in contact with Anthea to see how we could help. As a result, we were able to support the school by donating laptops that were then refurbished and put to good use by the pupils.

Anthea McLevy, Head of School said, “Parkside Primary School are really grateful for the continued support of Linkcity & Bouygues UK in making sure the children have access to a rounded education. During these difficult times some children had to learn from home remotely and they didn’t have access to devices. Bouygues UK were able to support with this by donating laptops. This meant that all children had the opportunity to access remote learning. Thank you for all your support as ever.”

In March last year, we applied for funding, via our parent company, Bouygues Construction’s Terre Plurielle Foundation to build a Sensory Room for the School.

Due to the impacts of Covid-19, coupled with living in an area of poverty, many of the children at the school suffer from trauma and mental health issues. This can have an impact on their capacity to learn inside a classroom. Having a space where the children could come to calm down and feel safe was a top priority for the school.

We were successfully awarded £5,000 by the Foundation with the promise to create a new Sensory Room in existing unused space within the school, containing resources to support children with additional needs and SEMH (Social, Emotional and Mental Health) concerns.

Previously a wasted space, our team redecorated and made the room fit for purpose by installing the decoration, lighting and resources found in a Sensory Room. This involved replacing the existing door with a glazed one, installing the electrical works, replacing the flooring, and finally providing sensory accessories to be used in the space. The Sensory Room was successfully installed by the end of 2021.

Our dedication to providing substantial support to Parkside Primary School during this particularly challenging time for pupils and staff alike lead to us achieving a Highly Commended Certificate at the 2022 Social Value Portal Awards, something we are extremely proud of. Our Social Value programme was designed to support the school not only during the pandemic but also after, creating a lasting, positive impact for years to come, for both current and future students at the school. We feel reassured with the knowledge that we have , create a safer space for the pupils at Parkside Primary School.

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