ON February 10, 350 people aged between four and 95 will join together in Huddersfield.
They will watch and enjoy the latest Muppets film at the Odeon cinema.
The event is the culmination of a pioneering project involving Huddersfield schools and the community as a whole.
Filmgoers will be a mixture of schoolchildren and older people from surrounding communities.
The Generation Together project began 18 months ago and has involved 19 Huddersfield schools with some 5,000 students. It was set up with the aim of “engaging older people with schools” and has received a total of £44,000 of funding from Kirklees.
Believed to be the first of its kind in the country, the project has exceeded all expectations. New links have been forged between infant, primary and secondary schools and older people who live in their local areas.
Numerous events have been held over the last year and a half, some of which have been described as “life changing” for elderly residents.
The students have delighted in their contact and work with older people, and, according to organisers, preconceptions have been disappearing fast on both sides.
Projects where students and the elderly have combined have included quilt making, dancing, weaving, visiting museums and churches to share stories, history and favourite places, a pop-up restaurant in Fartown, a DIY science event and even an inter-generational community choir,
The scheme has been run by three staff with the unenviable title of “enrichment activity facilitators,” or EAFs.
Each is attached to, and financed by, a group of schools often referred to as a pyramid or partnership. In essence, their job is to provide extra-curricular activities for the schoolchildren. These may include sports, musical events and the arts and, over the last 18 months, Generation Together.
Lisa Jagger (pictured inset left) was the first to be employed as an EAF and is now in her fifth year. She works full-time for North Huddersfield Trust School and its partnership primary schools of Ashbrow, Birkby, Fixby, Christchurch Woodhouse and St Thomas.
She said: “Schools are the hub of any community. The inter-generational project is unique, the first of its kind in the country where so many schools are working together with the common aim of engaging older people.
“We are over the moon with the outstanding success of the project. It has been a win-win situation for both students and older people and has led to many more new links being forged.
“It is helping community cohesion and has quashed some perceptions on both sides. We have been amazed at how easily the two generations have talked to each other so naturally, like they are old friends.”
Jane Lees is employed three days a week as an EAF by the Salendine Nook pyramid – the High School, Moorlands, Reinwood and Lindley – and two days by the Almondbury partnership of the High School and the primary schools at Almondbury, Greenside and Lowerhouses.
Jane (pictured below right) said: “The schools themselves wanted to work closely together as well as with their local community.
“We wanted to break down any barriers that older people might have about coming into school, particularly when they did not have a good time at school.”
Lee Bray is the third EAF. He covers the schools in Paddock, Cowersley and Crow Lane and last year also worked with Royds Hall High School.
Although the funding from Kirklees is about to run out, the schools and EAFs are confident that Generation Together has left a lasting legacy.
Many events involving schoolchildren in their local communities are already planned for 2012.
Lisa said: “It is not all about the money. Money helps, but it is about schools building relationships with the community.”
Is your school planning to take part in a community activity this year?
If so, the Examiner would like to hear about it. Contact Linda Whitwam by email at email@example.com