This month, teachers from across Europe descended upon a Bradford school.
From schools in Spain, Portugal, Greece, Hungary, Turkey and Poland, the group spent time at Lister Primary School in Scotchman Road, as well as in the local community. They came as part of the British Council’s Comenius Programme which aims to give teachers an insight into how schools in other countries are run, leading to new teaching ideas and improvements.
Directed at schools and colleges, the programme gives staff the chance to spend time in another European country, studying, job-shadowing or on a school partnership visit. It also helps young people develop knowledge and understanding of the diversity of European cultures.
Lister Primary School in Scotchman Road, Bradford, gained funding to take part, and is involved in a project surrounding healthy living and food.
Subjects under the spotlight include PE, personal, social and health education (PSHE), and healthy eating. Activities have included sharing each country’s traditional games and swapping healthy recipes. Children have also enjoyed writing songs and poems which they have shared with their counterparts from schools overseas.
“Part of the project is to share recipes from different countries,” says Lister Primary School teacher and Comenius Programme co-ordinator Danielle Blott. “We have put together a recipe book which we will use to make dishes from overseas.”
Danielle has travelled to Poland, Spain, Hungary and Greece, and will visit Turkey in June.
“It has been great to share experiences with teachers from other countries and look at the different teaching strategies and different cultures.
“In Hungary, primary schools do a lot of music, art and sport, involving children and their parents. For instance, they had races for parents at sports day and a tug of war. This is something we will look at.”
She adds: “Our visitors were interested in how we link PE with different subjects such as maths.”
The school uses an activity called Tagtiv8, which uses sport to teach maths and literacy. This cross-curricular learning is not common outside the UK.
“Our visitors were also very impressed by the travelling health education unit the Life Caravan which visited our school,” says Danielle.
The teachers also examined how they each tackle different behaviour among pupils. “Strategies that approach the children in a more positive way such as not pointing or saying ‘no’, were discussed, as well as talking at different volumes, and getting the children excited about lessons.”
A unique feature of the programme is that it is open to all staff – caretakers, kitchen staff and administration staff, as well as classroom assistants and teachers.
Physical education teacher Stella Kolovou travelled to Bradford from Greece, where she teaches in a primary school in a village near the city of Larissa in the east of the country.
“I am hoping to improve my lessons through visits to other countries,” she says. She refers to Des Hamilton, former Bradford City, Newcastle United and England Under-21 footballer, who works in school as a health mentor.
“I was impressed here in Bradford that they are employing an ex-footballer to teach the children, and that they make links with lessons in other subjects. Teachers do this in my country, but not at such a level.
She adds: “This project will improve our knowledge and help towards educating our students. It is good to be able to learn about other cultures, and strengthen relations with other countries.”
She refers also to the fabric of the buildings in the UK. “Here school buildings are far better quality. We really need to improve.”
Juani Ramirez, teaches in a primary school in the city of Cartagena in southern Spain. “It is very interesting to see the differences between schools,” she says. “I am learning things from all the partner countries. We have different methods, but we work towards the same things.
“In Spain, the majority of schools use books to follow strict rules, but here in the UK, teachers are free to guide the curriculum. There is also more paperwork in Spain rather than talking – there’s more interaction here.”
Andy Meehan, business manager at Lister Primary School, says: “It is a tough application and selection process, which we were proud to come through.
“The school is very proud of the links it has made between the other partner schools. Children have enjoyed writing songs and poems which they have shared with our visitors, and we will keep in touch with them.”
For more details visit british council.org/comenius-schools.