Ms Jean Freeman MSP, the minister for Social Security visited the intergenerational project that brings together pupils and older volunteers in the The Community School of Auchterarder, Perth and Kinross on Wednesday the 2nd of May to see the project in action and to meet some of the pupils and older volunteers taking part. The project, which includes both primary and secondary pupils started in 2017 by the national intergenerational charity Generations Working Together, aims to improve literacy and numeracy in the school, as well as building community links, increasing wellbeing and tackling loneliness. Ms Jean Freeman recently launched the reducing loneliness consultation and will be looking at the impact the project has had so far.
The project has 17 older volunteers, with more starting soon aged over 50 and is being piloted in the two schools, The Community School of Auchterarder and Perth Grammar, where it will run until at least 2019. The funding for the project has come partly from the Pupil Equity Fund, but also from other organisations such as The Gannochie Trust. The project is continuously being evaluated and Generations Working Together hopes to spread the project into more local authorities in Scotland, such as Glasgow and Fife. The Perth and Kinross intergenerational pilot is being delivered by the intergenerational development officer Maureen O’Reilly, who was hired specifically to organise sessions, recruit volunteers and evaluate the process. Despite only running for a few months so far, the benefits have already been evident, such as increased concentration in pupils, improved wellbeing in older volunteers and new friendships.
The older volunteers have also given positive feedback, including Audrey Bradley who volunteers at the Community School of Auchterarder who said in her feedback ‘I just wanted to let you know how much I’m enjoying my Tuesday afternoon sessions with P4, it’s a challenge working with the children who find it so hard to focus and concentrate, but actually I look forward to it and try to think of ways to gain and keep their attention on the task in hand…I also thoroughly enjoy the few minutes I spend in the main classroom, it’s always interesting to see what the teacher is doing, and how the children respond’.
Jean Freeman MSP has said “It’s a delight seeing young people enjoying learning with older volunteers at their side. We need to develop more ways of bringing generations together, not only for mutual learning, but to also challenge stereotypes and break down barriers. We have to ensure our older people can continue to provide a valuable contribution to their communities after retirement and this new project is already reaping the benefits of their skills and experience.”
As well as this, the project has been showcased at the recent Perth and Kinross learning event, which took place in February. The event saw attendance of John Swinney, MSP and Sheena Devlin, Perth and Kinross Service Manager (Education Services). Generations Working Together is keen to show the project to more representatives and education professionals interested in connecting generations together in a school setting.