The following article comes from Ian Hall, Assistant Principal at Derby Moor Spencer Academy.
Prior to visiting Hefei, I had few expectations about the city or the schools I was about to visit. I was purely focused on re-establishing the link with our partner school and if truth be told, I was in trepidation of the speeches and the number of formal meetings. I was keen to impress our hosts but had put little thought into what I and what our school could gain from 1 week trip. Little did I know what was about to happen…..
Having travelled with my counterparts from Derby we had plenty of time to get to know each other and it was clear we were likeminded and shared a sense of humour. The fears of the unexpected turned to intrigue and excitement as we arrived to the bright lights of Hefei city by night.

A truly heartfelt welcome…

Visiting Hefei education bureau in the morning was an honour. The opportunity to see their passion for education at such a high level and then ask questions meant I left with a notepad full of ideas.
Each school we visited welcomed us with open arms. It was less standing on ceremony introduction and more a truly heartfelt welcome.
The opportunity to see their passion for education at such a high level and then ask questions meant I left with a notepad full of ideas.

Students performed traditional music and dances with passion and pride in their work. This was made even better when we were able to join in. Actively being encouraged to embrace school life and of course great fun for us and them.

Classroom doors were open, and teachers invited us in to see them teach and allow us to participate in their lessons. I got the opportunity to see and discuss teaching pedagogy with teachers. Ideas that I have already begun implementing in my classroom!

Students shared gifts and work with us and speak to us about their school and learning. These have been shared and are already wowing the Derby Moor students, especially as there is the personal touch and story to each and every gift.

The greatest honour was then bestowed upon us as I and the other delegates were given the opportunity to teach. I threw out the ‘Peter Pebble’ rap (a favourite of my own students) which was met with applause and exciting questions from students and teachers.

Developing as a Leader

It was at the meeting at each school I learnt from teachers and leaders alike about how I can improve my own practice. The sheer pride in their school and the talents of their students blew me away.
In the evenings I got the opportunity to learn about Chinese culture and foods. The traditions were shared and embraced by us all. The chance to find out about the leaders as people broke down boundaries and meant meaningful relationships were made. I now can’t wait to welcome delegates back to Derby and share even more.

An exciting future…

My return to Derby Moor has been met by intrigue and excitement by students and staff. I have organised our forthcoming inset to harness this and drive our school towards the silver award. Just 2 weeks on and plans are already afoot to welcome delegates back to Derby in Jan/Feb.
Our school will return in April 2025 and if such a trip can have such an amazing impact on a 42 year old, what will it mean to 11-16 year olds to visit Hefei city and schools?!!