We are thrilled to announce that Longacre has been shortlisted in the Independent Schools of the Year Awards in the Community Outreach Category.

The school has been shortlisted in recognition of the strong community links we have developed with Elmbridge Retirement Village in the nearby village of Cranleigh. The initiative was started by Deputy Head, Ben Moir and Head of Pre-Prep, Nicki Mould. “The idea was inspired by the Channel 4 series ‘Old People’s Home for 4 Year Olds’, where a nursery was created within a retirement village in Nottingham. I was looking at the benefits of mixing our children with the residents, particularly as some of our children do not have grandparents or live a long way away from them.” says Mr Moir.

Since September 2019 the children in Reception, Year 1 and Year 2 have taken it in turn to visit the residents at Elmbridge on a weekly basis. During their weekly visits the children spend time reading with the residents and working together on the topics they have been learning about in school such as Kings and Queens and Transport.

“The teachers run a normal lesson and the residents join in,” explains Mr Moir. “The children love it and there is now a core of 12 residents taking part. The liaison officer at the retirement village says the smiles haven’t left their faces. Children don’t have preconceptions about older people, all they talk about is the new friends they have made.”

Elmbridge resident, Val (aged 91), sums it up: “Waking on Monday mornings I’d think ‘Oh lovely it’s Longacre Day’, the fascination being meeting the group and seeing so many different personalities. I learned a lot from the boys and girls. Making crowns was a whole new adventure. I don’t know who was teaching who but it was great fun amidst a lot of laughter”.

Year 2 pupil George feels the same: “It means very much to me. I learn a lot about the world when I visit Valerie. I think we help them by sharing information so they can learn new things. They are always smiling as they love to see our faces. I wrote a letter to Valerie since the virus because she’s my favourite person at Elmbridge, she’s so kind and generous and willing to help us if we get stuck.”

The residents have also enjoyed paying regular return visits to the children at Longacre. They are collected by the school minibus and then spend a couple of hours enjoying singing and craft activities with the children such as icing biscuits and making clay hedgehogs. Residents were also invited to watch the Pre-Prep Nativity play which they thoroughly enjoyed.

“It is so lovely to watch the warmth of the relationships between the children and their more ‘life-experienced’ friends developing with each visit.” says Head of Pre-Prep, Nicki Mould.

Although COVID-19 has put a pause on their visits for now, the children have been staying in contact with their friends at Elmbridge and have been exchanging letters during the lockdown.

The winners will be announced in October.