Reciprocal visits between schools in Devon and Dakar prove to be the key to a strong partnership.
Jo Turner is back from her third trip to Senegal and she’s bearing letters, project work and pictures for her pupils back in Devon. The primary school teacher was visiting the International Bilingual School (IBS) in Dakar, which her school (Newtown Primary in Exeter) has partnered with since 2011. She believes these Connecting Classrooms funded trips are what has kept the partnership strong.
‘The visits are crucial to building and sustaining relationships that underpin the partnership,’ said Jo. ‘They make it more “real” for the pupils and create a buzz of excitement around the project work.’
IBS is a fee paying school in an urban setting. One of the reasons Jo chose it was because it challenged assumptions of what an African school was like. On her visit she shadowed her Senegalese colleagues, observing their teaching practice and teaching classes with them. She also planned joint projects and delivered handwritten letters from her pupils.
‘We decided to develop a global cookbook with recipes that represent the multicultural makeup of the schools. It will be developed as joint project, rather than simply learning the same thing and sharing an end product,’ said Jo.
The joint project work is what underpins a Connecting Classrooms partnership. Each project develops Global Citizenship outcomes through focusing on different themes. The first project Newtown and IBS worked on involved every class in both schools creating a piece of artwork to represent their school, community or country. Pupils then voted for their favourite, and the two winning designs were used to create a joint partnership logo, which was printed on t-shirts and sold to parents and teachers.
‘The project encouraged the pupils to consider what it meant to belong to a different culture, as well as their own. This develops the global citizenship theme of identity and belonging. When I visited IBS, I wore my partnership T-shirt and the pupils were really excited to spot their artwork.’
Pupils at schools who run the Connecting Classrooms programme benefit from working on interesting international projects and understanding better their place in the world. Jo also feels that teachers get a lot out of the programme too.
‘I am more confident in teaching global citizenship themes and providing opportunities for the children to tackle the big issues. The excitement of visiting also has a positive impact on our teaching and their learning, as the enthusiasm is passed onto the pupils.’
Jo found IBS on Schools Online, the British Council website where schools from around the world can find partners and access teaching resources. After seeing IBS’s profile she contacted the head teacher and, after exchanging emails and telephone conversations, they decided that their aims were aligned.
‘IBS is bilingual, speaking both French and English, which we teach at Newtown. We were also very much aligned in terms of our values and what we wanted out of the partnership. And on a more practical note, IBS is also in the same time zone, making communicating easier.’
Now the partnership is over three years old, Jo sums up the benefit it has brought to her pupils.
‘Many of the pupils had limited experience beyond their immediate surroundings and certain assumptions around what an African school was like. The partnership has helped to broaden their outlook, giving them an opportunity to see themselves as part of the wider community and how they are connected to others in the world.’
If you would like to find a school to partner up with or access teaching resources please register at Schools Online and then use the Partner Finding Tool.