The following article comes from Fiona Milward, Headteacher at Whitehouse Common Primary School, UK.
Our international links and associated curriculum work are a fundamental part of who we are as a school.
In 2009 – 2011 we participated in a 2 year Comenius Regio partnership with Barcelona and then joined two Connecting Classroom projects; one with India (2011-2014) and the second with Mexico (2014 – 2016). These partnerships not only broadened the horizons of the staff but also provided a sense of excitement within teaching and learning across the school and were key in developing our internationally minded outlook.
Most recently we were part of an Erasmus+ project with schools in Austria, Spain, Greece and Turkey entitled ‘Let’s go Cultural’.
Originally planned to last two years, Covid 19 arrived and the project ran from 2019 – 2022. This project aimed to explore, preserve and celebrate culture and our themes included heritage, festivals, food and music. As a group of schools, we had the ‘Hello’ song which was composed by a colleague from the Greek school and this was sung by all children across the 5 schools throughout the project; this was particularly emotional during our final visit to Greece.
Visiting these countries provided me with the time and opportunities for professional discussion and allowed me to reflect on our education system and how we could trial different teaching methods in school to provide a range of learning opportunities for our children. As a result of our visit to Austria, we introduced a ‘no screen/powerpoint’ lesson as we felt that our staff had perhaps become overly reliant on this within their teaching.
It was an absolute privilege spending a lesson each day teaching the children in these schools and although each school was very different, the similarity between them all was the enthusiasm, engagement and inquisitiveness of the children.
Sharing our experiences on our return continued to ignite the spark of curiosity within our children and through a variety of means of communication (Skype/Teams, Christmas cards, letters) they felt a sense of belonging and friendship with the children from our partner schools. It was clear to see the impact that the project had and re-affirmed my belief and passion for the work we do in school as global educators.
European Day of Languages (September) and International Mother Language Day (March) are celebrated in school with children and staff sharing languages that they speak or are learning. This year, children shared German, Albanian, Arabic, Bengali, Romanian, Latin, Turkish, Spanish, Urdu, French, BSL, Cantonese, Malayalam, Punjabi, Norwegian, Greek and Italian. They performed songs, conversations, poems and rhymes either solo, with a friend, sibling or in a group and it was evident to see the pride and value the children place in being able to share their heritage and culture.
Diversity is regularly celebrated through whole school events as well as a programme of assemblies and focus days. ‘Around the World in 80 books’ was our focus for World Book Day in 2022. Classes explored the geography, customs and people of the stories read with children bringing in books that were important to them in terms of their language, heritage or from a country they visited. The Padlet (seen below) was updated throughout the day as children explored the different books and there was great excitement as another pin appeared on the world map!
Being a global citizen gives us a greater understanding, acceptance and interest in others and ultimately this develops a greater sense of our own belonging. It provides the realisation that different cultures have more in common than they have differences and this in turn promotes and fosters inclusion and tolerance in our children.