The following article comes from Amanda Blackburn, Executive Headteacher at St Stephen’s Church of England Primary School and Nursery in Surrey, England.

In March 2024, we took a group of 30 Year 5 and 6 children to Chengdu, China. Just typing that sentence captures the pride and sense of achievement that we feel as a school.

St Stephen’s Primary is a small school with big aspirations for our children. The school is in the semi-rural village of South Godstone, in Surrey where 90% of our children are of White British ethnicity. The socio-economic backgrounds of our community are diverse and as a school, we actively create and expose all of our children to a wide range of opportunities in order to broaden their experiences and improve their ambitions for their future. This international trip was an ideal opportunity for our children to experience another culture, with the key project aims of challenging stereotypes, developing a deeper appreciation of their own and another culture whilst building confidence and resilience.

Our week in Chengdu achieved all of that and more! We spent 3 days in our partner school, Sichuan Tianfu New Area Yuanyin Primary School, where our children were buddied up and able to experience a mixture of immersion in different classes and standalone special lessons like Calligraphy, Ceramics and Kung Fu. The daily whole school exercise outside was a favourite amongst the children and staff. It was impressive to see how quickly bonds were formed between our children and their buddies and there was real emotion as they bid farewell to each other at the end of their time in school.  We were also able to spend 3 days exploring the sights, sounds and tastes of Chengdu; visiting the Chengdu Panda Base was a highlight, as well as exploring a variety of restaurants and shopping opportunities.

It was impressive to see how quickly bonds were formed between our children and their buddies

We were supported throughout the process by Global School Alliance – right from submitting a successful application for Turing funding, through to planning the itinerary and providing a knowledgeable local guide to accompany us during the trip.

To say that our visit was transformational feels like an understatement – the experience was enriching, moving and motivational for both children and staff and has brought us closer to achieving our aims as a school of preparing our children to embrace the future with hope, faith, confidence and compassion.