Preparing students for the world of work in a global jobs market is no easy task. As the Northumberland Church of England Academy celebrates receiving its first International School Award, The Journal found out about initiatives to bring the world into the classroom.
FROM walking five miles with a back-breaking 40kg of firewood, to searching for a missing child in the wilderness and helping to run a busy bush clinic, the experiences of group of North East students in Kenya have been life-changing.
Now they hope to share their adventure and inspire their peers to follow in their footsteps, as well as forging permanent links with a Maasai school.
The trip to Kenya earlier this year, to help provide clean drinking water to a village, was one of a wide-range of international initiatives that have taken place in the Northumberland Church of England Academy, which has campuses in Ashington, Lynemouth and Newbiggin-by-the-Sea.
They also included an unforgettable visit from a troupe of Maasai Warriors who performed their tribal dance, and Greek language taster sessions from experts from Durham University as part of European Language Day.
As a result the school has received the British Council’s International School Award - a badge of honour for schools that do outstanding work in international education, such as linking with partner schools overseas. It recognises the schools leading the way in instilling and developing a global dimension into the learning experience of all children and young people.
But the award is not about a certificate for the wall, say teachers. Instead, it is about giving students real-life experiences that will prepare them for finding careers in what is a competitive global jobs market.
And with 50% of the school’s pupils eligible for school meals, the academy believes it has an even stronger role to play in ensuring pupils have the chance to discover life beyond their home town.
Louise Gatti, the academy’s gifted and talented coordinator and teacher of art and design: “This is not about getting a certificate for the wall. It is vital that we equip our students with the skills they need to enter what is a global jobs market such as language skills and an understanding of different cultures.
“We also want to encourage aspiration so pupils realise that they can travel to places like Kenya and help make a real difference to people’s lives.
“Experiencing these cultures first hand, whether in school with an unforgettable performance from Maasai Warriors, or visits overseas such as volunteering abroad, is a much better way of learning than just reading about them in a book or watching on a screen.”
The group was made up of David Flynn, Paegan Hall, Rebecca Sanderson, Caitlin Banks, Jack McDougall, Jamie Pratt, Nathan Whitworth and Ashley Davy.
They had to raise £21,000 to visit Kenya and take part in a volunteering project led by the Northumberland Youth Service to help provide a village with safe and clean drinking water. The trip has proved inspirational both to them and fellow students and two of the year 12 students, Rebecca and Ashley, have been appointed as the school’s “
International Ambassadors tasked with generating enthusiasm amongst fellow pupils.
Rebecca said: “After a year of intense fundraising and an unforgettable experience in Kenya the project is something that we will all carry with us.
“I also hope to take it forward by developing links with our school and a Maasai school, so that we can exchange cultures develop their educational facilities and hopefully initiate trips in the coming years.”
John Rolfe, from the British Council, said: “The school’s fantastic international work has rightfully earned it this prestigious award. Adding an international dimension to children’s education ensures that they are truly global citizens and helps prepare them for successful future careers in an increasingly global economy.”
The group travelled with Northumberland-based Willett’s Safaris. The following are extracts from their diary:
“On Monday most of the group took up the option of an early morning bush walk with Moses, some decided to have a rare lie-in and John took Rebecca and Mike for a drive along the river to see giraffe, zebra, vervet monkeys, mongooses, wildebeest and a variety of antelope. After the previous evening’s meal most made the most of the late breakfast before heading off to spend the day at the Threads of Hope Sewing School where we carried on with the work in the garden and shop although we did have some brief distractions. One of the sewing students had carried a bundle of firewood for about five miles and she demonstrated how to carry 30-40 kg of wood on your back. Only a few had the courage to try it out!”
“It was Paegan’s birthday so the Maasai women dressed her up in traditional dress. That evening we had a birthday barbecue at the village with freshly slaughtered goat, marshmallows, singing and dancing round the fire.”
“We have now travelled to our next camp at Moses’ home of Labentera. On arrival we were given some disturbing news. One of the little boys (about seven years old with Down’s Syndrome) from the neighbouring village had gone missing three days earlier so we joined in with the search parties but to no avail. On returning to camp we made ourselves Maasai walking sticks before dinner and bed. The next day we walked down to the local nursery school and spent the morning working with the kids and playing games. After lunch we were driven the five miles to the nearest river where the women walk to twice a week to fetch water. The group soon learnt that collecting and carrying 20 litres of water would be beyond them! Back at camp the group went warrior training while John took some of the local Maasai men out for the next three hours, going round remote villages to spread the word about the missing boy. After four days with leopard, lion and hyena about it is not looking good.”
“Another hard day’s digging for half the group with the other half accompanying the local nurse to run a bush clinic for a remote community that hasn’t received such a clinic for about a year, in fact the last time John was able to offer the services of his vehicle. Over 40 patients were seen and treated with another 20 having to be turned away as we ran out of time. It was then on to Enchorro Naibor where we all met up again to spend the night on the edge of the world looking out over Lakes Natron and Magadi and the mountains of Shompole and Oldoinyo Sampu. After watching the sunset and enjoying dinner round the fire we spent the night sleeping under the stars before getting up to see the sun rise again. Some local kids appeared after breakfast and we played a game of catch before heading back to school to carry on with the digging.”
“Sunday saw many of the group off to church which they found an experience although at three hours slightly longer than they might have wished for. They then joined the rest of the group who had spent the morning clearing ground at the Threads of Hope Maasai Women’s Sewing School to help create a garden area and car park for the shop. On our way back to camp we called in at the local shopping centre and John gave the group a typical daily wage which the cook helped them use to buy the ingredients for their evening meal. The reality of subsistence living was brought home to everyone when they realised that all they could afford was ugali, beans, a few vegetables and a bit of fruit. Healthy and nutritious though it might be, after all it is what most Kenyans live on, everyone agreed it had been an interesting experience but could they go back to “proper” food tomorrow please.”
“Our last day in Olorte was mainly spent playing with the school children before going to visit the women and their beadwork business. We ended the day presenting water filters to the District Nurse who will distribute them to the communities where dirty water is a real problem.”