Burnt Mill students sign up pen friends

CHILDREN and older people in Harlow are becoming firm friends by reviving the long-lost hobby of pen pal letter writing.

Year 8 students at Burnt Mill Academy have struck up friendships with neighbouring pensioners by writing letters and telling them about their lives and asking all about their new companions.

In return, the older residents have replied, comparing their own school days to today’s, inspiring their young correspondents to work hard for the best possible future.

Rachel Fletcher, SMSC co-ordinator, said: “Many older people do not have extended families, so it is nice for them to feel as though someone is taking an interest in them. For the students, it is enabling them to build links and showing them there are people out there they can talk to. The older people are telling students to value school and that it will lead them to great places. It is not just about being in school, but expanding students’ appreciation and understanding of other people’s situations, especially those who might not have their own families. The older people have also been telling students about how they came to live in Harlow and what their hobbies are.

“This is bringing back that tradition and getting students thinking about what life was like in the past while building up that community link. The students have been really excited to take part. It has been such a success that they will continue writing backwards and forwards.

“I am over-the-moon with how it has gone. It’s really important that, as a school, we engage with the community. The students have been receiving lovely positive feedback on their spelling and grammar, so it is also proving good practise for them.”

The Pen(sioner) Pals idea came from Becci Court, project development co-ordinator at Harlow Council, in liaison with the Rainbow Services charity which works to alleviate the effects of disadvantage, deprivation and social exclusion.

She said: “I saw a similar project on the news and decided to set the idea in motion in Harlow.

“We could not have continued with the idea, without the involvement of Burnt Mill Academy.”

The students’ pen pals have been invited in to school to enjoy tea and cake with their young friends.

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