This article is taken from the spring edition of the SSAT Journal – hard copies of which were distributed to SSAT member schools before the Easter break.
Sylvie Beuzit, Deputy Headteacher at Upton-by-Chester High School, writes…
The partnership with Al Khansa School started in March 2008 during a British Council Connecting Classrooms contact seminar in Sana’a, the capital of Yemen. Old Sana’a is an amazingly beautiful walled city situated in a mountain valley at an altitude of 2,200 meters and its tower-houses, all built before the 11th century, are stunning. This is where our partner school is situated and sadly, this is where the current conflict is taking place.
Our Connecting Classrooms partnership with Al Khansa has opened up opportunities for students and staff and promoted intercultural dialogue. Over the past eight years, staff and students from both schools have worked together on global citizenship projects across the age range, and jointly produced a film in Istanbul around the theme of friendship. In addition, students took part in a textiles project using photographs of Chester and Sana’a.
Half the work produced in each school was exchanged and students were able to enjoy their counterparts’ work while appreciating each other’s culture. In each school, the spectacular displays serve as a reminder of our link and strong friendship.
Profound impact of Yemeni teacher’s visit
Jamila Rajeh’s third visit to our school in June 2014 had a profound impact on the whole school community and enabled us to plan exciting new projects in the curriculum. In the last academic year, year 9 students worked on an environmental project developing an Eco code and discussing environmental issues affecting their country and the world; while year 7s produced a family factfile for students at Al Khansa.
These activities encourage students to pay particular attention to their writing skills as they are communicating with pupils for whom English is not a first language. This in turn develops their literacy skills as they draft and redraft for a real purpose.
During her last visit, she took part in religious studies lessons with year 7 students studying Islam, and spoke very warmly of her country and educational system with year 10 English students. Religious studies teacher Hannah Clarkson said: ‘It was amazing to see students’ reaction to Jamila’s first-hand experience.
‘Her visit provided a superb enrichment to our curriculum. It was wonderful to have the opportunity to view education through a global lens, to see how we can link students to another school community in Yemen and the impact it has on the way students think and respond.
This enabled them to compare and contrast religious customs and practices. It broke down barriers and helped in the understanding of cultural differences.’
Students’ evaluations gathered after each project to measure the impact of international learning on teaching and learning show extremely positive outcomes on students’ development as global citizens:
I gained an insight into education in the Yemen and I enjoyed learning about similarities and differences.
I like learning about the world outside of the UK. I have created a PowerPoint for the pupils at Al Khansa. I like the idea of people miles away seeing my work.
I enjoyed writing about my house and area… I learnt what their country and houses were like. Before I didn’t know anything about the Yemen. We also got taught how to say hello in Arabic.
I think the project has taught me about cultural understanding. It has really opened our minds towards the people of the Yemen. Our assemblies and displays have had a big impact on our education!
Over the years, educational projects with the Yemen have become more ambitious and technology has enabled us to stay in touch. The projects have provided us with the opportunity to explore differences and similarities while enabling students to find out about each other’s countries and cultures. The quality of work has been excellent as pupils have embraced the projects with enthusiasm.
This is a highly successful partnership because we have managed to embed the project plans in the curriculum. In addition, the Connecting Classrooms project is written into the school evaluation form and the whole school development plan.
As a school, our aim is ‘to maintain, refine and further develop international learning’ to uphold the school’s international accreditations (British Council, Fairtrade, Eco- School, Oxfam Youth, SSAT Cultural Diversity Quality Standard).
These have given us the guidance and framework around which to develop and embed international learning across the curriculum and across our partnerships with schools around the world. Gaining international accreditations and recognition has enabled us to maintain and develop best practice over time. In turn, this is now feeding into the TEEP model adopted by Upton.
Even the conflict in Yemen has not stopped us working together.
The conflict in Yemen has thrown the whole country in turmoil but this has not stopped us working together. When the internet works and Jamila gets a connection, we are delighted to hear from her.
Recently, we were astonished to see that she managed to take part in an online global environmental survey designed by our students to include partners in the Yemen, Russia and Sri Lanka. Her dedication to our partnership, at all times and despite worsening circumstances, is inspiring.
Great Torrington School is part of the SSAT network – find out more about membership here.
This article is taken from the spring edition of the SSAT Journal. A complimentary hard copy was sent to every SSAT member school, and the full PDF version is available to download from the member area of the website. Download your copy here.