Seven years ago St Nicholas Church in Wales Primary School started on a journey to open the world up to their pupils
This was first through Comenius and now with Erasmus+, through both mobility and strategic partnership projects.
St Nicholas Church in Wales Primary School, located in the Vale of Glamorgan, is a relatively small school with only around 125 pupils, the majority of whom are drawn from the Ely and Caerau area of Cardiff. St Nicholas wanted to give their pupils an international outlook, to open their eyes to new cultures and to help them become global citizens. Through participating in Erasmus+ and before that Comenius, they have been able to achieve this, giving their pupils a window on the world which they would not otherwise have had.
Under the predecessor programme, the school successfully applied for funding for a Comenius Language Assistant from Spain. Maria was a big hit – not only improving the whole school’s level of Spanish, but also their knowledge and skills of Spanish food and culture. Following this positive experience the school successfully applied for a Comenius Project, 'Traditions and Celebrations', which involved nine schools from across Europe and enabled their pupils to find out all about their partners’ countries and cultures, as well as discovering more about their own. They exchanged information and views about their traditions, with SKYPE allowing them to talk and listen to each other directly.
As a small school, all staff were able to take part in mobilities, attending partner meetings and developing a network of trusted colleagues in the process. The bonds formed and the success of this project led to St Nicholas and three of the partner schools taking part in further Comenius projects, while others ran school-to-school partnerships, set up summer schools together or stayed connected through the European Union’s online platform, eTwinning. Lola Hughes-Cuddihy, a year five pupil, said:
I found eTwinning really interesting because we could speak to the Danish children, who although so far away, felt so close.
Pupils’ language, knowledge and personal and social skills were all developed in the process. St Nicholas also went on to take part in the British Council’s Connecting Classroom project, not only hosting staff from a partner school in India but also being able to benefit from the opportunity to visit and work in an Indian School.
Sowing the seeds
St Nicholas stayed connected with several of the Comenius partner schools after the projects finished, hosting staff from France, attending summer schools in Slovakia and job shadowing in Germany. One visit in particular, to a school in Denmark, was to have a huge impact. St Nicholas staff saw Danish colleagues using Lego and coding to engage and motivate pupils of all abilities and ages; pupils were having fun but subliminally using problem solving skills related to maths and science. They established a project linking coding, sustainability, design, construction, geography and language which laid the groundwork for their future Erasmus+ project.
Schools from four countries of these Comenius projects, Germany, Hungary, Denmark together with St Nicholas, the lead school in the partnership, joined forces again to successfully apply for an Erasmus+ Strategic partnership project entitled ‘Innovate With LEGO Education’. They had already secured support from Lego Education who had agreed to supply Lego Mindstorm Kits and Lego We Do kits to each school, as well as to provide training at their Education Head Quarters in Denmark.
Caroline Fouracre from St Nicholas leads on Education for Sustainable Development and Global Citizenship, (ESDGC), which seeks to give learners, at all stages of education, an understanding of the impact of their choices on other people, the economy and the environment. She explained why this is such a worthwhile project: "Coding is the new literacy of the 21st century and through this project we are seeking to develop students who are future architects of the digital age.
The staff across the partnership seek to inspire pupils to build on the ideas, as there are seemingly limitless possibilities related to coding and achievement, even for less able pupils. All of us have diverse catchments and we all wish to capture the imagination of all our pupils."
The pupils have a creative hub where they can work together in mixed groups to develop skills, build friendships and raise standards of work - with maths, science, problem-solving and design skills all being developed in the process.
The project focus could be a vehicle for developing literacy, numeracy and elements of the new Digital Competence Framework - Robert Williams, Director of Policy National Association of Head Teachers
St Nicholas also successfully applied for funding for a mobility project which allowed two senior members of staff to job shadow in Denmark – an extremely valuable experience. Staff not only job shadowed lessons which were beneficial for their Strategic Partnership project, but they were also able to see and use new ICT software which they plan to incorporate into their ICT scheme of work.
Pupils have also benefitted from visiting partners in Germany, for many their first time abroad, where they were immersed in the world of sustainability. All pupils were totally enthused and inspired by what they saw, as their German colleagues had arranged a varied and interesting program related to sustainability. They explored old windmills, cutting-edge wind farms, and the largest greenhouse in Europe - technology was brought to life, innovation was experienced first-hand. Pupils and staff formed friendships, new lesson ideas were planned and good practice across the partners and indeed the wider community has been shared.
The Erasmus+ projects have already had a major impact on St Nicholas, which resulted in positive feedback in their ESTYN Report: "It allows older pupils to share their skills with younger pupils and to collaborate with peers in a European partnership," ESTYN Report January 2017.
More importantly their pupils are becoming global citizens at a very young age, forming friendships with pupils from other countries and cultures and reaching out to ensure the journey continues. Caroline concluded:
Our seven year journey with Erasmus+ and its predecessor programme has been a huge privilege and a wonderful experience, the educational value of such projects should not be underestimated. It has opened doors not only for our pupils’ long term education but also for our staff in terms of continuous professional development. Thank you Erasmus+ for thirty supportive years!