Pupils at Thornhill Primary School in Barnsbury buddy up with elders from care home for ‘enrichment programme’
PUBLISHED: 15:00 04 April 2019
A grieving grandmother has been inspired to write poetry again after visits from primary school pupils as part of an enrichment programme for the children.
Thornhill Primary School in Barnsbury is running a unique project where the Year 6 students participate in various activities that are a break from their usual academic rigour.
On Friday the school invited people from the nearby Muriel Street Care Home over to the school for a tea party, having already visited the care home as part of the project.
One of the guests, June Pile, 79, used to write poetry but stopped 15 years ago when her granddaughter died of a brain tumour. She said she was inspired to write again after the visits from the children.
Mrs Pile said: “After my granddaughter died of a brain tumour I couldn’t get myself to write poems anymore.
“But then one day after the children left I suddenly had the urge to write a new poem about how much it means to us when they visit us.”
At the tea party two students read Mrs Pile and the other residents a poem they made which brought her to tears.
Mrs Pile, a lifelong Islington resident, will turn 80 in June and recalled seeing the Queen’s coronation on TV on her birthday in 1953 when she was only a few years older than the students at the school.
Mrs Pile was a big hit with the students, who surrounded her and asked to take a selfie on her phone.
Through the enrichment programme, students have engaged in 26 different enrichment activities ranging from electrical engineering to kayaking, doing something new every six weeks.
On Friday some students learned boxing from coach Tom Greenhill of Kick London.
But it was the visits with the care home residents that proved to be the biggest hit with the students.
Year 6 pupil Shanay said: “At first when I went to the care home I was a little scared but then got much more comfortable and thought it was really nice because I like elderly people.
“It was much more fun than I thought.”
Tom McMullen, one of the enrichment leads, said he was worried some of the students might initially be scared from visiting the care home. But he was pleasantly surprised by how much they embraced the experience.
Fieona Connolly, lifestyle manager at the care home, said some of the students were nervous at first after visiting them but almost immediately bonded with the residents.
She said: “By the end of the day, the children didn’t want to leave and the residents didn’t want them to leave either and everyone was in tears.”
Louise Ryer, who runs the enrichment programme alongside Mr McMullen, said: “On so many levels this is learning in a different way.
“We’re the only school in Islington doing it but I think all schools in Islington should.”
Headteacher Jenny Lewis said that the enrichment programme served to give the children a rounded education that isn’t only concentrated on studies.
She said: “It’s about the balance, because we do have really high expectations for academic achievement but because so much focus tends to be on the academic, the wellbeing part of children’s learning tends to be lost.
“We wanted to bring that balance of enrichment.
“It’s a very big risk because we’re taking away timetable time for enrichment but it’s about the breadth of the exposure and the experience children have.”
She said that the students enjoy it so much that on Fridays attendance is better than normal and they have more or less no behavioural issues.
The enrichment sessions don’t involve teachers so it frees up their time which they can spend to plan out the next week’s lessons.
Ms Ryer added: “We give them a bit of time back and hopefully that leads to a better work/life balance and hope to retain them and the kids get this fantastic opportunity as well.”
Another student, Kyan, said it was brilliant because he normally didn’t get to meet older people and enjoyed hearing about their favourite memories.
Another care home resident Richard Cleary, a Manchester United fan, bonded with a student even though he was an Arsenal fan.
The next time the student came in he brought him a Man United scarf.