INTERNATIONAL THINKING in association with
ISA in Wootton Bassett
know the name
town that on a weekly
basis honours the
repatriation of soldiers
killed in Afghanistan. But
what impact does this
have on the local school,
especially when it comes
to the global dimension?
Alison Thomas explains
HAT IS international
learning? For Robert Ford,
assistant headteacher of Learning links: IB students at a leadership conference in the Ridings International Centre (RIC), while (below) American IB students from
Wootton Bassett School Gar-Field High School, staying at the RIC, talk to peers in SAI School in Orissa, India, the day after the Mumbai attacks in November
in Wiltshire and a panel
judge for the International He brought with him a wealth of experience and They talked of hardship too and their horrific The Global Fellowship took her to China, since
School Award, there is no some invaluable friendships, which he had forged in his descriptions of how women are treated in some parts when she has worked with schools in Thailand, been
single answer. previous post as director of international education and of their country brought the reality home. Yet despite to India, and worked with special educational needs
“You can’t have a one-size-fits-all approach. There International Baccalaureate (IB) at The Ridings High the gulf between their respective lifestyles and cultures, children in Plymouth.
are so many mitigating factors. The leadership, the School in South Gloucestershire, now Winterbourne there was a lot of common ground. Mr Ford continued: “She wasn’t too keen on school
demographics of the community, the organisation of the International Academy. “They spoke about sport and family life. They liked when she was younger and even talked of leaving in
school: all of these alter subtly – but significantly – how One that is especially pertinent to the Wiltshire reading, dancing and listening to music. These are the year 12. Now she is soaring. She is articulate, confident,
it will develop. Every context is unique,” he explained. town is Afghan Connection, a charity founded in 2002 great connectors, the timeless, boundless themes,” said intelligent and she’s only 19. Put her in front of a group
And perhaps nowhere is more unusual than Wootton by Dr Sarah Fane to improve healthcare and education Mr Ford. of kids and leave the room and she can enthuse and
Bassett, famous worldwide as the town which honours in a country devastated by decades of war. Part of her Another forthcoming event is a visit to Gar-Field motivate and really get them engaged.
the repatriation of soldiers killed in Afghanistan. Among work is a twin school project, run with the Swedish High School in Virginia, USA. This too has special “That is what I love about the global dimension.
the crowds who line the streets are 6th-formers, who Committee for Afghanistan (SCA), which links over resonance for Wootton Bassett. Mr Ford continued: It’s not just aimed at a small elite. Everybody wants
come to pay their respects if the occasion coincides 26,000 students in Afghanistan and the UK. “An aspirational presidency is being undone because to know about the world. Take sport, for example.
with a free period or lunchtime. Dr Fane came into school last term to give years Barack Obama can’t see a way out of the war. Gar-Field We’re developing a PE link with Cape Town, leading
No-one has asked them to do this. It is a spontaneous 9 and 10 first-hand insight into the human side of the is only an hour from Washington. Many of the students’ eventually to a visit, when our students will coach
response to a momentous event of their time. It brings conflict. They have subsequently raised funds and put parents work in places like the State Department or the South African youngsters in football. That ties in
another dimension to global awareness. It is real and it together letters and gifts, which she took to their partners, Pentagon.”. with the World Cup. Then there’s the Commonwealth
touches their lives. bringing back their replies on her following visit. He has also established partnerships with schools Games in Delhi, and again we have partner schools
It has also prompted reflection on wider issues. First Two teachers hope to join her in Afghanistan in May in Georgia and New York. In this instance, video- there, all building up to 2012, when the world comes to
the British National Party turned up. Then an extremist and the school will host the charity’s annual twin school conferencing enables students on both sides of the us. All this will capture young people’s interest for the
Islamic group announced its intention to march through conference in the summer. But first, an exciting event Atlantic to share their views on major contemporary next three or four years. You really can’t ignore what’s
the town. It subsequently reversed this decision, but the is planned for next month. Teenagers from Wiltshire, themes such as global terror and climate change. happening in the world.”
initial announcement led to an earnest 6th-form debate. Sweden and Kabul are about to link up for a video- A lecture is delivered by a leading academic or a Another way of setting international work in a
Should the procession be banned? Or would that conference. non-governmental organisation and afterwards they meaningful context is to use the language of transaction
be hypocritical, since the soldiers were fighting for When their peers in South Gloucestershire had the engage in debate. Online materials, virtual classrooms to provide a deeper perspective. A GCSE group will
democracy and the right to freedom of expression? One same opportunity, they wanted to know what their and discussion groups allow them to pursue their study visit a partner school in Quebec next September, but
student suggested that the group should be allowed to partners’ classrooms were like, how they viewed the further, culminating in the presentation of papers. first they will study Canadian history, geography and
exercise that right, and that they would exercise theirs West, and if they were fearful for the future. This last “Of all the international work I’ve seen, I think this tourism through the medium of French.
by attending en masse and turning their backs. question produced an encouragingly positive response. represents where we should be taking it. It’s highly Meanwhile, everyone in year 11 is engaged in an
Mr Ford came to Wootton Bassett last September to These were young people with aspirations. They wanted sophisticated and deals with very pertinent topics,” Mr initiative that he is piloting for the British Council. This
lead the 6th form and elevate the school’s well developed good education. They wanted good jobs. They wanted Ford added. is a Global Citizenship Award, modified from work
international dimension to a more strategic level. to bring up their children to avoid conflict. He owes these and other enriching contacts to that he did through the Asian Dialogues Connecting
the expansive global network of IB World Schools. Classrooms scheme. By the time students present
The Ridings was one of the first state schools in the their portfolios, they will have held several video-
South West to adopt the IB Diploma programme, conferences with America, hosted Swedish visitors,
now Wootton Bassett is following in its footsteps. worked with their Chinese partner school and the
The holistic approach of the demanding international Chinese language assistant. They will have looked at
curriculum helps students to develop not only a more themselves at a local, national and global level.
enlightened international outlook, but critical thinking It provides a tangible outcome and a more substantive
skills too. approach towards international education while still
Being part of the IB community also bridges the allowing for plenty of freedom. He believes that the less
private/state school divide. In 2007, Mr Ford worked prescriptive it is, the more innovative and creative the
with the IB Schools and Colleges Association to global dimension can be.
develop a regional network of IB schools for the South His own travels to schools all over the world
West. In December last year, around 100 of their have reinforced his belief in the dynamic power of
students met up for a conference looking at global international collaboration.
leadership in the wake of Barack Obama’s election. “There are so many things to pick up, there are so
Pupils from prestigious independent schools many different models. But wherever I go, there is one
collaborated with their state school counterparts; visitors thing we share – we all have the same optimism for
from Virginia were present on the ground, and a video- young people, we all know that our futures depend on
conference link was set up with a school in India. All in them. There’s an old Chinese proverb: ‘If you want to
the name of global learning. plan for one year, grow rice. If you want to plan for 100,
On an equally inspiring note, Mr Ford has been educate children.’ It’s a lovely mantra,” he said. SecEd
busy writing references for Wootton Bassett hopefuls
who aspire to a prime minister’s Global Fellowship, • Alison Thomas is a freelance education journalist.
a programme that takes young people to one of the
so-called tiger economies for six weeks to learn the
language, work in a school and a global company. • Wootton Bassett School: www.woottonbassett.
On their return, they share their experiences by wilts.sch.uk
presenting to a wide range of local and national • International Baccalaureate: www.ibo.org
audiences, including schools. • Prime minister’s Global Fellowship: www.global-
Competition is fierce, but for those who succeed, the fellowship.org
impact is dramatic. He cites one of his former pupils as • International School Award: www.globalgateway.
a shining example. org/isa
SecEd • February 4 2010 13
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