A new resource pack to help teach school children about dementia is being launched at the National Children and Adult Services (NCAS) conference today (Wednesday 16 October).
The launch marks the culmination of a project which has seen 22 primary and secondary schools introduce the theme of dementia into their curriculums and has involved over 2,000 children. All schools are now being encouraged to download the pack and incorporate it into their work.
The aim of the sessions has been to build children’s insight into the dementia, remove stigma and provide the opportunity for students to interact with people with dementia. From science lessons about what happens in the brain of someone with dementia to a debate around the issue and an art class designing a mural to depict what someone’s journey with the condition is like – schools have interpreted the theme in their own way.
The scheme, which is supported by Alzheimer’s Society, is part of the dementia friendly communities programme which is designed to improve the lives of people with dementia through the changes everyone in the community makes – from bus drivers, bin men and shop owners to restaurants and big corporate companies.
Jeremy Hughes, Chief Executive of Alzheimer’s Society, said:
‘With a million people developing dementia in the next ten years it is likely children will experience the condition in their lifetime, whether it is a grandparent, a parent, or even themselves. Educating children and young people about dementia will help them understand more about how it affects someone and remove stigma before it even develops. This project has been a real success and we hope other schools will take part.’
Angela Rippon, Alzheimer’s Society Ambassador, who chairs the project, said:
‘The imagination and passion shown by the children has been truly inspirational. They and their teachers have put so much enthusiasm into their work. Many people with dementia have told me how friends have treated them differently following their diagnosis. This project is vital in order to break down the fear attached to the illness by enabling young people to understand the condition. They will carry that knowledge into maturity – helping us create a dementia friendly generation.’
As well as incorporating dementia as a theme into lessons, a number of schools enabled children hear talks from carers and people with dementia, and arranged visits to Alzheimer’s Society services and care homes.
A Year 12 pupil, from Northfleet School for Girls in Kent, said:
‘Before I thought it was a bit scary and I wasn’t really sure at all, but after we spoke to him (a person with dementia) I realised he’s just like any normal person and he can live the same way that we can, just with a bit of help.’
Recommendations from the Intergenerational Schools project include:
• Appointing a lead teacher who has time allocated to project planning and delivery.
• Time allocated to the project should be ring fenced within the curriculum to avoid competition from other subjects and events.
• Schools should aim to form links with local dementia organisations, care homes and schools to help with various aspects of their projects and pupils should be given the opportunity to meet people with dementia and carers.
The project, supported by Alzheimer’s Society, was based on work undertaken by Dr Karim Saad, the Regional Clinical Lead for Dementia in the West Midlands, in collaboration with the Association for Dementia Studies at the University of Worcester and the NHS West Midlands Dementia Pathway Team. It was funded by the Department of Health. The resources have been developed by the Health and Social Care Partnership.
For more information and to download the resource pack, please visit www.alzheimers.org.uk/schools