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SecEd continues its focus on international linking in the

run up to Comenius Week 2011 in May. Alison Thomas visits Lytham St Annes to find out about the vast array of links one school has built under the Comenius project

celebrations and meals. And smiles.lots of happy smiles. “i’m so glad i’m here. i love Comenius projects,”

says Georgina from Greece on one of the videos. Thomas from England agrees: “it’s a very good way of introducing lots of different countries to each other. you get to experience different lifestyles and cultures.” This is the Comenius Partnership blog of lytham


St Annes Technology and Performing Arts College (lSA) in lancashire. Called “Traditions around Europe

dAily diAry conveys a sense of wonder and excitement, pictures and videos give you a glimpse into a joyous coming together of different nations. There is exuberant music and traditional dancing; there are markets and monuments,

Europe calling: LSA’s European links have seen visits to Spain (top left) and Turkey (bottom left and above) among other countries She has been delighted by the dedicated support

without borders”, the two-year project brings together 16 schools from 15 countries. The first groups of students and teachers have already met up in istanbul and Gran Canaria. Further meetings will take place in Portugal, Germany, Hungary, italy, the UK and France. Only a few people from each establishment

can travel abroad, but everyone is involved in the cross-curricular project, which will culminate in the production of a recipe book, a calendar, a brochure describing traditional national holidays, and a collection of folk legends. in thelancashire school, the project is led by Sandra

Underwood, school links co-ordinator and a teacher of modern languages.

Harnessing pupil power Psycho babble

rECENT PrESS reports have focused on potential redundancies of staff whose subjects do not prop up the English Baccalaureate and the fact that cuts in school budgets mean that “soft” subjects will be cut and their teaching staff released. What’s the answer to ensuring that students

continue to get the training and support they need in the subjects that interest them – and finding ways to fill the gap in funding? it’s simple: pupil power. it has occurred to me that having spent a great

deal of money for “expert” iT advice over the years, i would have been better off employing my own teenage children. Why not set up a student iT department, for the purposes of dealing with non-sensitive technology matters – website access, teachers’ computers, e-newsletters, report cards etc. Also, we buy in counselling

services, when research suggests that teams of student and community mentors are equally effective in addressing the rigorous needs of today’s kids. We buy in nutritional advice,

when not only do students have a clear idea of what they would like to eat, but can be given the resources they need to come up with a well balanced menu (on a budget) for the school. if you need cheaper suppliers for printer

paper or loo roll, get students involved in sourcing and negotiating the best deals. if you want a design for the new library, ask for plans from a designated team of would-be architects or designers in the student community. This may sound unrealistic, but the truth is that kids

often learn better when they are given responsibility for their own learning and most definitely when they are empowered. These activities may not provide credits towards final grades, but they will look pretty good on a personal statement or CV, and they will potentially save a great deal of money. Timebanking holds great promise for the future

of all of our schools. if you can’t afford to get what you need to support your ideal school curriculum,

you can consider joining a Timebanking scheme within your community – offering the services of your students (helping elderly people set up computers or work on allotments) in return for hours that will be returned to the school in the form of a local karate teacher who comes in weekly for extra-curricular training, an out-of-work or part-time architect, dietitian or iT expert who can oversee your new “student” departments for a few hours a week, or even credits at the local gym for keen athletes. A local mechanic involved in the scheme could come in and teach an after-school auto- maintenance class; a local artist could teach sculpture; a local childminder can set some students on the first steps towards a career in early childhood education. Within the school, too, students

can give their services in return for others – helping a teacher set up a mathematics intranet in exchange for some extra tuition, for example. The point of all this is that

students are not only our future, but they may well hold the key to our future. The more like the real world our schools are, the more our students will learn, the more practical skills they will acquire, the more confidence they will develop, the more creative and ingenious they will become, and the better they will be prepared for life beyond the classroom. There can be no doubt, too, that giving responsibility and opportunity will help

address disaffection. Although the term will be an anathema to many,

why not create a “big society” within the school, with a view to filling gaps that funds may no longer meet, rounding out the social, financial, practical and entrepreneurial abilities of our students and, hopefully, saving a bit of money. As the quote goes, “a successful person is one who can lay a firm foundation with the bricks that others throw at him”. So take those bricks, and start learning how to build. As with all foundations, this starts from the bottom.

• Karen Sullivan is a bestselling author, psychologist and childcare expert. She returns in April.

she has received from a cross-curricular team of fellow enthusiasts. A music teacher will be recording the choir’s rendition of English folk songs, a history teacher has been looking at British traditions from a historical perspective, a food technology teacher has taken responsibility for putting together the cookery book. The students’ response has been equally positive,

and the knowledge that their efforts will be viewed by their partners abroad has been a tremendous incentive to give of their best. Ms Underwood explained: “An audience gives

them a real purpose. in history, for example, they knew that their teacher was taking some of their work to the meeting in Spain and the quality was outstanding.” The motivational impact is not confined to high

fliers and extends across all age groups and levels of ability. When Ms Underwood set one of her classes a poster competition, the contribution of a pupil with SEN was so exceptional, it has been guaranteed a place in the Comenius calendar. She continued: “He worked incredibly hard and now

he is grinning from ear to ear. it has really boosted his confidence. He is always putting his hand up and he is beginning to become more independent. He doesn’t know it yet, but his work is on the Comenius board in France. That’s something he is going to be very proud of.” Ms Underwood’s first experience of the European

Union’s lifelong learning Programme was a small eTwinning project with three partners. it may have been modest, but “Welcome to my World” received a Quality label Award and she was named the British Council’s Best Newcomer 2010. inspired by this success, she became an eTwinning

ambassador, one of a team that offers advice and support to anyone who needs it. it also motivated her to look into Comenius, and when she discovered that one of her existing partners was co-ordinating a project on culture and traditions, she could not resist. She explained: “The project was ready-made, and

much bigger than anything our school had done before. We had just been given an international Schools Award and this was a wonderful opportunity to extend our international work.” if eTwinning was the springboard, it continues to

play an important role through a parallel project with the same partners. She believes that linking the two schemes is an excellent way of involving a wide range of people and facilitating online communication in a safe environment. The eTwinning portal also provides the ideal place to showcase students’ work. As Comenius is a new venture for the school, it

takes time for its influence to spread, but little by little more and more staff are coming on board. When Ms Underwood delivered a global links seminar to her peers, it evoked enormous interest and she knows that when it is the turn of lSA to host a partnership meeting next year, she will have no shortage of volunteers to prepare performances and help out in different ways. in the meantime, preparations are underway for

an imminent visit to Portugal. On this occasion four student delegates representing three key stages have been selected through a competition to design a logo that encapsulates the spirit and objectives of the project. There is a lot of work to be done, not least by the

students themselves, who will be expected to deliver a presentation on traditional winter festivals to the assembled gathering. They are excited by the prospect and looking forward to finding out more about their partners’ traditions, tasting the Portuguese way of life and making new friends.

10 For the two year 8 boys who led the way in istanbul,

it proved a life-changing experience. Not only did it give them the self-confidence to stand up in front of the entire school and tell them all about it, they are now planning a visit to Germany to build on friendships they made on the trip. Ms Underwood said: “One of them was incredibly

shy when i first met him. i can’t believe the transformation. it has also inspired his interest in other cultures and he wants to study languages.” She herself has benefited in many different ways.

Three years ago, she was becoming disillusioned with her work, now she loves every minute of it. Moreover, she has found it very enriching to mix with teachers from so many different countries and learn how things are done under their respective education systems. This in turn has led her to instigate an interesting

experiment with her French partner, which the French headteacher intends to video. it will start with an exchange of schemes of learning, then the two pioneers will set about planning a lesson for each other. The role of their students will also be turned on its head, as they will assess the results, basing their judgements on criteria they know only too well as recipients. in terms of professional development, it is an

opportunity not to be missed and whatever the outcome, it is bound to be fascinating. The Comenius partnership is only six-months-old and already it is generating benefits that were never envisaged during the planning phase. Who knows where it will lead by the time it comes to an end next summer.

SecEd • Alison Thomas is a freelance education journalist.

Further information • Comenius:, email, or telephone 0161 957 7755.

• eTwinning: • eTwinning Ambassadors: etwinning-ambassadors-3.htm

• Public link to lSA’s twinning space:

• The lSA blog updated by students and staff on every trip: http://lsahighschoolcomeniuspartner

• The international page of the school website: inter_school.html

Comenius Week

Comenius is managed in the UK by the British Council. Comenius Week takes place from May 2 to 9 and the British Council is running a prize draw in the lead up to the week. To celebrate Comenius Week, LSA will be holding assemblies every day showcasing the project’s progress and achievements, organising a video- conference with Comenius partners, and will pick up the theme of one of the prize-winning logos, entitled “Branches”, by planting a tree in the school’s Peace Garden. The hope is that it will flourish and grow with the project.

SecEd • March 24 2011

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