SUNDERLAND Culture has been working with a Wearside school to keep pupils active and engaged during the COVID-19 lockdown.

Forty students at The Link School in Sunderland have received art activity packs and workbook resources designed and produced by members of the Sunderland Culture team. The Link School provides alternative education for pupils with behavioural issues from two sites – Springwell Dene and Pallion.

Keith Merrin, Chief Executive at Sunderland Culture, explained: “We’d been talking to Sunderland City Council about how we could help schools and students, and heard about some great mindfulness packs which had gone out to pupils from The Link School.

“The school’s headteacher, Donna Walker, told us they were about to send out another pack and we suggested adding arts activities and material. Donna agreed it was a good idea so we sent over art packs which included printed sheets of activities as well as pens, pencils, paper and other materials to help young people complete the sheets.”

Donna said: “We’ve worked really hard to keep in touch with our pupils and families. We’ve been ringing them all twice a week and sent out food packs once a fortnight. We’ve also been keeping our students busy with the mindfulness packs we sent out in March as well as doing a lot of online learning.

“Thanks to the generosity of Sunderland Culture, we were able to send out new Creative Mindfulness Packs to all of our Primary learners earlier this month. We’re very grateful for the resources, and to those who designed the activities. They’re just something different with lots of creative things for our young people to do – lots of different stimuli for the imagination.

“The feedback we’ve had from pupils and parents has been phenomenal.”

One parent said: “I can’t thank everyone at school enough for keeping in contact and everything they have been doing. We’ve been using the Instagram page for meditation and relaxation techniques and our weekly check in. The mindfulness bags have been amazing – allowing us the opportunity to do things together.”

Vicki Kennedy, Producer at Sunderland Culture, developed an educational workbook for the packs, where pupils and their families were encouraged to produce art using everyday objects. Inspired by the work of Marcel Duchamp, famous for his ‘ready-made’ art, pupils were set challenges to look at everyday objects in unusual and unique ways.

Vicki said: “We wanted to make the resources as accessible and fun as possible. Workbook activities ranged from drama improvisations, to recording sounds using mobile phones. There were no other resources or materials needed to complete the activities other than time and imagination!”

Keith added: “Vicki and our team had great fun producing a range of activities for young people at different stages of learning, and it’s lovely to hear our packs went down so well with young people and their families.”

The Link School has two sites – Reception to Year 9 pupils are based at Springwell Dene, while older pupils are taught at the school’s Pallion site. The children of key workers were being taught throughout lock down; Year 1 pupils restarted on June 1; Year 6 children on June 8 and Year 10 pupils on June 15.

Donna would like to thank Tesco’s and Morrison’s for their generosity in putting the fortnightly food packs together.