Intergenerational schools project - Dementia 4 Schools

The young people of today are the employers and employees of tomorrow with many likely to take on caring responsibilities at some stage in their lives. In 2012, Dr Karim Saad, published some early teaching aids to enable dementia awareness to be taken into schools. Following this, through conversations between Angela Rippon OBE and Ian Bainbridge, at the Department of Health, we were asked to manage a project to encourage schools to become actively involved in raising awareness of dementia with their pupils.  

The vision was to remove the stigma of dementia and achieve better community support and engagement for now and the future, by educating children about the condition.  Simultaneously providing children with confidence and insight into a widespread condition affecting their lives and communities and also providing interaction and enrichment between people with dementia and children.

In September 2012, 22 schools from across the country volunteered to participate as Pioneers in the programme. Armed with the teaching aides of Dr Saad the schools were aided and encouraged to develop their own lessons, resources and activities and to find ways in which the project would work most successfully in their individual schools and communities. The ways the schools went about this was staggering and ranged from simple dementia themed assemblies through Dementia awareness lessons, school choir visits to dementia care homes, debates, life histories, art and drama projects, development of interactive IT, tea parties, all the way to whole school inclusion where dementia was used as a theme to link the entire curriculum.                       

Some schools presented their work within their local communities, there has been local TV and press coverage at some schools and involvement of local MPs and other health, Council and third sector leaders. At the end of the school year the project and the work of the Pioneer Schools was evaluated by the Association of Dementia Studies at the University of Worcester  - the evaluation can be found opposite.

Using the evaluation findings and the resources and activities developed by the Pioneer Schools, we created a Dementia Resource Suite for Schools which would help and encourage further schools to engage with the programme. This Resource Suite subsequently received the PSHE Quality Assurance Mark.

2013-14 saw our work develop with a national rollout branded Dementia 4 Schools.

Schools retain the flexibility to tailor local projects to their own needs, but all projects should provide the element of basic dementia awareness.

The main themes identified are:

  • Understanding dementia                                                                   
  • Learning about carers
  • Meeting someone with dementia
  • Assistive technology

Each element works with the other three to provide an overview of what dementia is, the importance of carers in supporting people with dementia, the inter-personal experience of meeting someone and how technology (both hi- and low-tech) can help people stay independent for longer.

At the end of the school year 2013/14 we had worked with and supported numerous schools, local authorities, community groups and voluntary partners and over 140 schools had taken part in some form Dementia Awareness.

In September 2014, with the development phase of the programme completed, the day to day management of the programme has reverted to the Alzheimer’s Society. This has allowed the programme to have greater alignment with Dementia Friends and the Dementia Action Alliance  - where special guidance for schools has also been developed.

The Resource Suite, ongoing support and more information can be found on the Alzheimer’s Society website.