Champions of the global village

Leeds Thomas Danby College first forged links abroad 14 years ago, when a group of hairdressing students visited Lille, France. Now it has links with 33 organisations in 17 European Union countries, and 176 students on vocational courses will gain work experience in another EU country in the next two years.

These achievements have made it the International College of the Year in the TES Make the Link Awards 2006.

The awards were set up to encourage schools and colleges to build partnerships abroad. Further education entrants must show how their links promote global or European citizenship, and encourage joint curriculum projects and shared expertise.

The college wins pound;5,000 to spend on its international work. The award will be presented at the British Council's International Schools Awards this week.

Runner-up is Fermanagh College in Enniskillen, Northern Ireland, which wins pound;2,000 prize.

Marguerite Hogg, European co-ordinator at Leeds Thomas Danby, said: "I'm absolutely chuffed. It's nice to have hard work recognised and all the effort my colleagues have put in over the years."

The college has a European and international strategy and has written a good practice guidebook to help staff and other colleges with EU partnerships. And using European funding it has given its students a chance of work experience abroad and enabled staff to boost their professional development and share good practice.

Hospitality and catering students have had work placements in Italy, Norway, Sweden, Finland and France, and new opportunities are emerging in Eastern European accession countries. The college is also developing links in China and Russia.

Leeds Thomas Danby also trains apprentice chefs for Harvey Nichols'

restaurants and provides international placements as part of the training.

Last year, the college welcomed 40 students from EU partner schools to provide work placements, classes and cultural visits. Ms Hogg said part of the prize money will go towards helping hospitality students to experience first-class cuisine while on work placements abroad.

"Hopefully, they will come back and it will have excited them about the possibility of working not just in the UK but in Europe or further afield,"

she said.

Fermanagh College, was commended for its strong work in languages and promotion of European and global citizenship in the college and the wider community.

The college has a mobile classroom equipped with PCs that enables staff to teach languages in isolated and deprived communities. It also runs projects in partnership with colleges in France, Germany, Copenhagen, Spain, Italy, Austria and the United States.

The college recently forged links with Lithuania and Poland. In one project, it identified issues of Eastern European migrant workers in an area unaccustomed to foreign nationals. Using its international links, it now runs courses to help local employers understand migrants' language and culture.

Joan Major, the college's languages co-ordinator, said the prize money would help to extend this support and develop citizenship courses to help migrant workers acclimatise.

"We're absolutely delighted," she said. "It's very encouraging and motivating."

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