Creating dementia awareness through pupil interaction and community outreach

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Since 2014, Llanfaes Community Primary School has collaborated with a nearby care home to raise awareness and understanding of dementia amongst its pupils. The school’s aim to create a dementia friendly generation has been recognised nationally by charitable organisations and the Welsh Government.

Number of learners: 225
Age range: 4-11
Date of inspection: October 2017

Information about the school

Llanfaes Community Primary School is situated on the edge of Brecon in Powys with 225 pupils on role.  The school has a pre-school assessment centre and a setting for three-year-olds.  Around 7% of its pupils are eligible for free school meals.  Around 22% of pupils have additional learning needs, which is in line with the national average.  Most pupils come from a white ethnic background and speak English as a first language.  Very few pupils speak Welsh at home.  The headteacher took up her post in September 2005 and the last inspection was in October 2017.  The school is currently a curriculum pioneer school.

Context and background to the effective or innovative practice

Four years ago the school took an opportunity to become involved in facilitating greater recognition of dementia in their community and developing a dementia friendly generation.  Statistics for dementia indicate that it is going to be a key element in the lives of pupils.   The school endeavours to educate pupils for the lives they will lead and identified that awareness of dementia would benefit all.  The school has since been successful in raising awareness of dementia at school, local community, county and national level.  A critical element is the facilitating of dementia awareness sessions for pupils, parents, governors and staff.  This work is supplemented by the establishment of links with a local care home for the elderly.  The focus is on enhancing citizenship and educating pupils for their futures.

Description of nature of strategy or activity

Dementia awareness sessions are given to all Year 5 pupils annually.  These sessions are led by the local dementia champion.  During these sessions, pupils learn about what dementia is and how it might affect people.  At the beginning of Year 6, all pupils have a refresher session.  Each week a group of Year 6 pupils are taken to Trenewydd, the school’s local care home.  Whilst there, pupils and residents engage in a range of activities, including playing board games, singing and looking at memory boxes.  Pupils look forward to these sessions, which greatly enhance the wellbeing of the residents.  On occasions, the residents join the school for activities and share termly church services.  Years 5 and 6 undertake a sponsored memory walk annually.  This is used as a rich task by Year 6, who organise, plan and execute the entire event.  It enables the pupils to utilise many literacy and numeracy skills.

Whole-school awareness is enhanced through assemblies and the inclusion of dementia issues during ‘healthy living weeks’ in which older pupils work with younger classes to explain dementia using simplified activities.  Year 6 pupils act as ambassadors at a local infant school, delivering dementia workshops to Year 2 pupils. 

Community working has developed through pupils sharing their practice at Brecon Dementia Friends coffee mornings and dementia awareness sessions.  In addition, Year 6 pupils have presented to the National Alzheimer Society in Cardiff.  Their innovative work was recognised through being awarded the National Alzheimer Young Persons Contribution award in November 2016 in London.  Dementia sessions have been held for staff, parents and governors.  At whole school events, such as parent-teacher association (PTA) fayres and coffee mornings, there is always a dementia stand.  Dementia information is also permanently available in the school foyer for anyone to access.  The school has hosted many dementia sessions for the community, including a recent dementia champions training session.

What impact has this work had on provision and learners’ standards?

Links with the care home have a significant, positive impact on the wellbeing of pupils who attend.  The pupils show enhanced empathy for the elderly and have a clear understanding of how they can support them.  The activity has also enabled them to think clearly about their own emotions, especially when having to deal with the passing of a resident.  Notably, the pupils fully appreciate the contribution the residents can make to their learning.  This has been demonstrated in various ways, for example through their first-hand sharing of historical information on a variety of topics.  The learning is a two way process, with the pupils introducing the residents to ICT, such as the use of tablet computers.  Overall, the pupils’ views on the elderly have altered, as they now see the real people behind the dementia.  There is no fear of ‘old age’, simply a recognition of how to help.  True friendships have been created with mutual respect at the core.

The challenging rich task, used by Year 6 for the memory walk, enabled them to develop a wide range of literacy and numeracy skills.  Through presenting to others, pupils have developed their oracy, writing and presentation skills in a real life context.

How have you shared your good practice?

This inter-generational working has been shared in a variety of ways.  The Children’s Commissioner for Wales and the Older Person’s Commissioner for Wales have visited the school and the Trenewydd care home.  Subsequently, a film was commissioned, which is available on their websites.  BBC Radio Wales have recorded a session that was aired on the radio.  Pupils have presented to the National Alzheimer’s Society in Cardiff, detailing the project and its benefits.

Powys Local Health Board has made a short film, which was shared across the authority.  The work was shared as a good practice case study on the ERW consortium website.  Powys local authority has included details about the project on newsletters.  Kirsty Williams, the Cabinet Secretary for Education, has visited the school to discuss dementia and the school’s links with Trenewydd care home with the children.