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International linking


Connecting with the continent


The British Council offers a host of international education programmes for UK schools. Sarah Stead tells us about the projects her school has got involved with, and the benefi ts they have seen for both teachers and pupils


A


s international coordinator at Adel Primary School in Leeds, I fi rst became involved in eTwinning, one of the education programmes funded by the European Union and managed by


the British Council, in 2005. Initially I used it to fi nd a partner school in Spain to extend language learning by communicating with Spanish children. Six years later, I am proud to say the whole school is now involved in European collaborative activities and we were awarded the prestigious British Council International School Award in 2008 and again in 2010. Our eTwinning partnerships have developed into Comenius Partnerships and we also host Comenius assistants, (trainee teachers from across Europe). Our focus for international collaboration has shifted to social, cultural and global initiatives and we have developed full scale European and global links. eTwinning enables schools and colleges across 32 participating


European countries to work collaboratively on creative projects online. I use eTwinning to fi nd school partners, to communicate and exchange ideas with other teachers and to start working on projects. It provides a safe and secure area for partners to communicate and share project work. It is free of charge and very fl exible; projects can be started online at any time, can be any topic and can last for any length of time. eTwinning also offers online training sessions and face-to-face workshops to provide support on using online technology, fi nding a partner and getting started on a project, with off-the-peg ideas if you are not sure how to get started. eTwinning is part of the European Union’s Comenius programme, which offers funding for European partnerships. Recognising Comenius as a great way to enhance the activities of our eTwinning partnerships, we applied for and received Comenius School Partnership funding.


The Comenius programme enables schools in 33 participating European


countries to develop knowledge and understanding among young people and education staff of the diversity of European cultures and offers opportunities for personal and professional development. Colleagues participated in Comenius contact seminars and workshops offered by the British Council to meet our partners face-to-face and develop project plans. Our Comenius funding has opened up new possibilities within our partnerships, as pupils and teachers are now able to participate in exchange visits.


Learning new skills Our project work has been plentiful and diverse. From sharing games, songs, stories, festivals and traditions from each of our European partners, the children are learning new languages, discovering the similarities and differences in new cultures and learning new communication skills in ICT. As our headteacher Stephen Boothroyd says: “We are preparing our children for the future.”


“Our Comenius funding has opened up new possibilities within our


partnerships, as pupils and teachers are


now able to participate in exchange visits with our partners.”


We collaborate in organising events that take place in each partner


school, such as Walk to School Week and Healthy Week. All our activities are captured in writing, photographs and video and we share them with our partners on our secure online eTwinning “Twinspace”. The pupils also communicate by letters, email, blogs and video conferences. To further enrich the European experience within the school we also


hosted a Comenius assistant from Bulgaria, who became a real asset to the school. She ran a club for our pupils called “Europe says hello” and taught the pupils about various European countries through language, geography, traditional music, dance, costume and food. She even taught them the Cyrillic alphabet. She really immersed herself into life at the school.


Outside the classroom The activities go beyond the classroom. Families and school governors are included and come to the school to take part in events. They have shared their childhood games, cooked the healthy recipes sent to us by our partners and walked to school with their children. Some families really become immersed by hosting visiting teachers and pupils during the exchanges. We also disseminate our work to the community and neighbouring schools via newsletters. Our exchange visits with our Spanish partners are signifi cant to the


Hitting the dancefloor: Pupils at Adel Primary School get involved in a flamenco lesson


26


development of our partnership and projects. Pupils and teachers meet in person and experience each others’ cultures fi rst hand. As coordinator, I


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