Since autumn 2022, we’ve launched a Dementia-Friendly School framework and Certificate. In 2022/3, our first ten schools across the Diocese of Lichfield signed up for Certificates. Those schools are able to renew their Certificates for 2023/4 – and other church schools or schools with a strong church connection, within the Diocese of Lichfield, are invited to join the network. It’s a great opportunity for collaboration between churches and local schools. All the information is available here: https://www.ldbe.co.uk/becoming-dementia-friendly-schools/
Severn Loop Parish near Shrewsbury has been part of the dementia-friendly church network for several years. In 2022, Rev Hannah Lins and Joyce Jagger started to work with local schools using the dementia-friendly schools framework. What are their experiences?
- Create your team: It’s vital to get the right team involved from the outset. As a minimum, it’s important to involve at least one member of staff from the school and someone from church who is involved with dementia-friendly church work.
- Initial Certificate actions: As with the church Certificate, the school Certificate sets out three actions for the coming year. In the first year, there are two key actions to include, namely:
- Deliver training for staff; and
- Deliver a worship assembly for the whole school about dementia and being dementia-friendly.
In both cases, the resources are provided on the website – and Hannah and Joyce generously commented that they are excellent. The staff training needs to be led with sensitivity: it can give space for shared epiphany moments and tears, with experiences of dementia in the family or school, amongst neighbours and the community. Go for “first steps first” and don’t overstretch – and the next steps become much easier.
Developing and building
If the first steps are taken steadily and well, there are lots of possibilities for taking things forwards. Links into the community hit multiple targets for schools. So next steps could involve:
- Children coming to a regular community coffee event.
- Children singing in a local nursing home.
- Making sensory bands / twiddle muffs.
- Planting forget-me-nots.
- Reviewing the physical environment of the school for dementia-friendliness.
A little over a year in to the journey, what is emerging? Hannah and Joyce recognise that it takes time to recognise the significance of becoming a dementia-friendly school. However, some things are already clear.
- Deeply moving: It is very moving to engage in becoming a more dementia-friendly school. There’s a journey from “What’s it got to do with me/us/schools?” to an acknowledgement that living with dementia is part of the life of any community, including any school community. It’s deep work and it gives space to share things that often aren’t spoken of, stories lying under the surface. And there’s a sense of relief in being given permission to talk about it: nearly all the children and all the staff knew someone living with dementia.
- Importance of wider community links: It is vital to speak the language of the school, linking with things that the schools has got to do anyway. One important target for Church of England schools is to have community links. Any links into the wider community are a mutual blessing, offering intergenerational opportunities.
- Schools are overstretched: With many demands on schools/staff, it’s important to work “with the grain ” and in ways that hit other curriculum or pastoral targets are key if we want school and churches to work together well on becoming more dementia-friendly.
To hear more…
To hear Hannah and Joyce talking about their dementia-friendly schools experience, watch this 15-minute video: