Children wearing face masks and reading books in school
Exhibit, 30 days

Covid, COP26 and Urban Schools

Examining the role of schools in urban communities

What role should schools play in their urban communities? How have schools supported families and communities – beyond online learning – during COVID? And what are the lessons for how schools can contribute to wider goals, such as a cleaner and greener environment?

This digital showcase documents the role of Arbourthorne Community Primary School in Sheffield before and during the ongoing pandemic. 

Feed back on the festival

An Even Better Arbourthorne

Welcome to Arbourthorne Community Primary School’s showcase of ‘An Even Better Arbourthorne’ (AEBA), a project funded by the Big Lottery, Tudor Trust, Centre for Innovation in Voluntary Action (CIVA) and other partners that aims to make Arbourthorne in Sheffield even better. The key partners are the parents and families at the school, school leaders and staff, Growtheatre, CIVA and the University of Sheffield.

The aim of AEBA is to support community capacity-building and poverty reduction through engaging with families and community organisations through the school. The focus to date has been on volunteering through school-based initiatives to encourage active citizenship and entrepreneurship. AEBA aims to address root causes of hardship by celebrating what already exists and supporting ideas from the community. 

The University of Sheffield is a learning partner and critical friend to the AEBA initiative. Our work involves some aspects of a traditional evaluation, along with real-time feedback and collective story-telling to support longer-term partnerships and processes. Our initial work suggests that AEBA is distinctive for many reasons, specifically for how it intends to de-professionalise the school-community nexus and build allyship between school leaders and families.

This showcase has been co-curated by volunteers and participants involved in key activities before and during the COVID-pandemic, and the AEBA team. Different groups and individuals were asked to develop a contribution to reflect their experience of being involved - whether a photo, piece of film, or bit of writing. This involved children, parents and staff as co-curators.

Slow Cooker Library

The Slow Cooker Library came about via an Action Station put in by a volunteer. It was turned into a 6 week course which runs over the cold autumn and winter school terms. Due to COVID, this course became digital and is now run successfully over WhatsApp each week from the comfort of our own homes.

We provide our parents with a range of healthy, hearty home-cooked meals which are cooked in their slow cooker throughout the day, making the evening meal ready to demolish when their hungry kids arrive from school. 

The beauty of this is vegetables can often be hidden - meaning more children are getting their 5-a-day without knowing it.

The slow cooker is a fantastic addition to everyone's kitchen as it is extremely economical, perfect for a busy family or working parents.

By Faye Harris

Get Growing

During the pandemic, growing was really important to us. Parents and children grew fruit and vegetables at home and then brought them into school to plant and tend. We also had a WhatsApp group where we shared our planting and growing tips and supported each other too. It kept us connected during lockdown – without realising it, we created our own support system! Our success spurred us on to write a funding application to develop some of the school’s grounds into an amazing Growing Area, which we call Our Healthy Hide Out, with new trees, outdoor beds for crops, a polytunnel, fire pit, outdoor cooking space, and incredible shelter and meeting space.  Since September 2020, the Get Growing Group, which is made up of parents and local people, have been busy making these ambitions a reality! Lockdown 2 and 3 and the Summer Holidays did not hinder us and the team has been rewarded with a wide variation of fruit and vegetables that they could share among the community. We love learning new skills outdoors, having our own social space where we can meet new people and enjoy seeing the difference we are making to our children’s environment!

By Rachel Newman and Della Oakes

Book Group

I applied for an Action Station to run an online Book Club for like-minded people in the Community. Our Book Club has helped keep people in touch with reality through the heart of the pandemic. When seeing each other wasn’t an option, our zoom meetings filled in that void and we made new friendships. The Book Club is a safe haven and an absolute joy to run. Not everyone enjoys the same books, but we all feel comfortable knowing that we can have our own opinions. 

We read around 12 different books as a group per year and we have become a really independent group of mums that socialise over our love of reading. After spending the money from Action Stations, as a group, we brainstormed some ideas to become self-sufficient and we have all donated small amounts of money to support our love for reading over the next 12 months. We love reading old and new books and we love hearing about different genres through peoples' differences of opinions. 

Being a Team Leader has given me the opportunity to develop my leadership skills, self confidence and passion for leading a group of people who all share the same interest as me. Now I have ventured into taking my love for reading deeper within the school by starting a Children’s Book Club alongside running the Little Library 2 nights a week where we redistribute second hand books. 

By Lucy Boldy

Community Fridge

Community fridge was set up to help prevent food waste ending in landfill. 

On two days a week our volunteers run the Community Fridge at Arbourthorne Community Primary School.

Many new members are continually being added. 

Members make our Community Fridge possible.

Uniting people, the Community Fridge encourages them to support an ongoing cause. 

Now we have so many members, they have to collect their bags on their chosen day.

Individual dietary requirements are being met.

Time to help kickstart a younger generation into taking notice of our environment! 

Young people and adults have the opportunity to try new foods.

From vegetables to fruit, tins to boxes, we have such a variety of food delivered and collected.

Ready to distribute bags our lovely volunteers have packed for parents and our wider community. 

Items of every different food group are donated by Fareshare Yorkshire, Tesco, Coop, Aldi, Asda, Lidl and the school.

Dividing our food delivery equally between our members' bags is important. 

Getting prepared for delivery and distribution has changed since COVID; now it takes our volunteers more time. 

Ensuring every member has a wide range of produce, including items from the fridge and freezer. 


By Della Oakes with Sonia Cooling

The Entertainment Team

The backbone of An Even Better Arbourthorne (AEBA) is volunteers. Our volunteers are drawn from family members or carers from the school community, as well as the wider Community. For every hour of voluntary time volunteers give to AEBA, they earn Time Builder Credits and these can be exchanged for Time Builder Rewards! 

Our Time Builder Rewards are incredibly wide ranging and aim to give volunteers and their families a variety of exciting experiences - like a daytrip to Cleethorpes, welcoming owls into the school and online bingo and quizzes. 

The Entertainment Team makes this possible by coming up with a lot of fun, different and creative activities and events.  We enjoy planning, organising, shopping and making things to make the Time Builder Rewards special for all involved!  It is brilliant seeing the families enjoying coming together, playing, having fun and being rewarded for the time they give to their community.

By Rachel Newman and Faye Harris

Family Feast

Our Family Feast evenings allow our Community to enjoy a free hot meal in the company of other adults, children and staff. The meals are shopped for on a budget and then cooked by our volunteers. We provide a healthy main meal and dessert once a fortnight for any members of the community who would like to attend. Our evenings are based at Arbourthorne Primary School.

Alongside our food we also provide entertainment for the adults and children, encouraging all to join in. These activities range from sports, board games, colouring sheets, reading books and occasionally a film on the big screen.

These evenings provide a warm family feel and are a huge success with us providing on average 80 people a time with a hearty home cooked meal. We have had many positive responses from both parents and children.

“My son would never eat shepherd’s pie at home and he's eaten it all here and been back for seconds. I'm so happy"

By Faye Harris

Action Stations

Christmas Hamper

The Christmas Hamper initiative was developed as I wanted to give something back to the families at Arbourthorne Community Primary School at Christmas. I applied for a grant of £250.00 to purchase toys, food, toiletries and hamper baskets. I also wrote to all local businesses and organisations to ask if they would make a hamper within their teams to donate to the initiative. After sending out a wish list, we were overwhelmed with the response from the Community and the donations we received, and we managed to pull together 30 hampers.

As the Christmas Hamper scheme was very popular in 2019, I applied to run the scheme a second time around in 2020. This fell at the same time as the pandemic and the need was greater than ever. Once again, I set about making wish lists and contacting local organisations, but this time I went one step further by setting up a Just Giving page to welcome cash donations for those that couldn’t contribute with food and other goods. We raised an amazing total of over £1000.00 which went towards buying items for the hampers. With the money that was left, this even meant we could afford to buy an easter egg for each child attending the school when Easter came around. We also included healthy recipes in the Christmas Hampers that families could learn to make using the ingredients they had in their bags.

Action Stations is a really great platform to bring small ideas to life. I have always had a passion for helping the Community and I am always really keen to give back where I can. Being able to be supported by the grant from Action Stations meant many families were given goodies for the Christmas period and were also encouraged to give back by donating something from their house to someone else’s hamper.

The response from the parents and children was amazing, it has really restored my faith in humanity that we can pull together as a community and make Christmas a magic time for everyone regardless of personal circumstances. I also know that 2020 was a really hard year and that the impact of Covid-19 will be around for many years to come and that it has impacted more families than ever! I just wanted to do my bit for the Community as nobody should ever have to go hungry around Christmas. I set up this appeal to bring some extra joy to what has been an awful year to help combat food poverty.

By Rebecca Gillot

Buddy Bench

The Buddy Bench was an idea I had so that children didn't feel lonely as It was something I felt for many years at school. The bench is a way to inform teachers, Big Brothers and Big Sisters that a child is feeling lonely. I wanted to build this bench so other children didn’t ever have to feel lonely or without anyone to talk to. I think it is a brilliant idea and I am really glad I got to be a part of it before I moved to a bigger school. Knowing I have left this behind for many more children to use, makes me really happy. I have seen children using the bench, smiling and enjoying sharing it with their friends and I have also heard my old teachers and mums and dads say how brilliant they think the Buddy Bench is. 
I had lots of help when I applied for my Action Station and I found it really easy and exciting to be a part of. I would tell everyone to apply for an Action Station as you can make some really big differences. 

By Lola Boldy (Y7)

Tree Champions

For accessibility, the above slides are available to download as a PDF via the button below.


A Story for Arbourthorne

A Story for Arbourthorne was developed during the pandemic as a way to provide entertainment to the families of the Arbourthorne Community. We asked parents, children, staff, volunteers and even some authors to read stories, poems and creative pieces of writing for us to share on our social media channels. Every video and recording we shared had so much life and happiness. We went on adventures with Pirates and Gruffolos, we went to tea with a tiger and ventured to the Island of Bum Bum Baloo. We were taken on exciting journeys with our imaginations at a time where we couldn’t leave our homes and it was so wonderful to see so many people getting involved.

Here you will see Skyla Ball (FS2) talking about her experience of being involved. 

By Paige Liddle

Red Robin Family Fun Club

Red Robin Family Fun Club is run by volunteers to provide a social activity fun club that the whole family are welcome to attend as part of An Even Better Arbourthorne projects. We meet every week after school at Red Robin House to enjoy a wide variety of activities, learn new life skills for all the family and to make new friends whilst enjoying snack together. Some of the activities we do each week involve planting seeds and watching how they grow, then we harvest and see how they taste, bug hunting, arts and craft indoor and outdoor. We also play games of different types and enjoy each other's company. We do this so all our Arbourthorne families can get together and enjoy each other’s company and most of all have fun.
“You can do lots of things like carving pumpkins on Halloween and having lots of fun. My favourite thing is planting things and tasting them”' - Shanice, Arbourthorne Community Primary School Pupil and RRFFC attendee. 

By Sonia Cooling and Nadia Ellams 



Showcase Co-curators

  • Faye Harris, Sonia Cooling, Della Oakes, Vanessa Kennie, Georgie Mitchell, Heather Glover, Lucy Boldy, Lola Boldy, Rebecca Gillot, Rebecca Broxholme, Skyla Ball, Nadia Ellams, Shanice Cooling, Paige Liddle, Rachel Newman and Beth Perry