Comberton Academy Trust

Boy smiling and folding his arms, leaning against a school wall
Comberton Academy Trust have been finding ways to weave language and culture into the curriculum with the help of the International School Award
What does it look like when you put international learning right at the heart of the curriculum?

Providing ‘education with an international outlook’ is one of the five core principles at Comberton Academy Trust, and runs right across everything they do. The International School Award is one of the ways they are achieving this.

Rachel Hawkes, Director of International Education and Research and Modern Languages teacher at the Trust, describes the benefits of working towards the Award for the Trust's schools:

“There are so many advantages to working together across the Trust” she says. “It enables us to share expertise, learn from one another, run joint exchange programmes, raise the profile of language learning, and create a real shared sense of identity”. The goal is for all schools in the Trust to have Full Accreditation status by 2017.


A step towards valuing all cultures

At The Voyager Academy, one of the schools at the Trust, a large number of students have English as an additional language. “Although it is important for students overseas to embrace the values of the UK” says Jane Driver, Head of Languages, “it was also crucial for us that students maintain a link with their own cultural heritage and identity.” This is part of a longer-term aim to ensure that all cultures are shared, valued and understood.

As a result, Voyager is currently working towards its ambition of establishing a link with a school in every country of origin for each one of its students. Many staff and students already have existing connections with schools and individuals overseas which Voyager plan to follow up with and strengthen. Although still in the early stages, the project has caught the interest of everyone involved.

They also run multilingual poetry and speaking competitions at the school, as well as the Language Leader Award where students teach foreign language skills to younger students at local primary schools. Whilst enhancing their skills in the target language, the Language Leader Award scheme also helps students develop their teaching and communication skills, as well as give them an opportunity to put their learning into practice. 

“At Voyager in particular, international work is helping to produce really high-quality results with regard to language learning”, Rachel notes.


Learning about life in other countries first-hand

Comberton Village College, another school at the Trust, has a long running programme of international activity and International School Award Full Accreditation status. A new focus there is on widening out the benefits of international work in different areas of the curriculum. 


Within the Year 9 International Development Geography module, students study video material which has been produced by their partner school in Pretoria, South Africa. The videos show students in Pretoria talking about development in the area where they live, and are used in lessons to further understanding of the topic.


Similarly, data are also being collected from partner schools in Germany, Spain, Japan and Peru which will be used by Year 7 students for their mathematics data handling projects. The questionnaire asks for all sorts of information, from shoe size to average time spent on homework each evening. 


Teaching languages across the curriculum

Teachers at Cambourne Village College, the Trust's newest Free School and recipient of the International School Award, are also working hard to set an example for their students and embed the international dimension to learning even further. 


They are developing their own foreign language skills in order to teach parts of their subject in Spanish. 


Their goal is to have a term’s worth of modules in art, music, geography and history routinely taught in Spanish. So far this year, some Year 7 students have already been having one maths lesson per week in Spanish.


Working together on global themes

Having shared practice with The Voyager Academy, there are plans to develop a more cohesive assembly programme in other schools across the Trust, with a focus on global themes, as well as to join forces on activities such as exchange programmes.

“We want our students to learn and understand more about the people they are connected with across the world”, Rachel says. 

Ultimately, for Rachel and the Trust, the International School Award provides the ideal framework for coordinating international activity and has helped to structure their activities, as well as give each school something to work towards:

“Creating a sense of shared ethos and values across very different schools can be a challenge, but sharing the objective of attaining and maintaining the International School Award is tangible and something all schools can readily sign up to.”