Come on down for Comenius

Aspiring teachers from across Europe have seized the chance to work in Scotland. Elizabeth Buie reveals why

Edinburgh played host last week to more than 100 aspiring teachers from 22 nations taking part in the British Council's Comenius programme.

The scheme, funded by the European Commission, places trainee teachers of any subject in schools abroad so that they can develop their cultural awareness and teaching skills. Participants at last week's "Europe in microcosm" conference came from as far afield as Norway, Portugal and Turkey.

Comenius assistants provide an important free resource for their host school and can add an international dimension across the curriculum and support language learning.

For the aspiring teachers, it is a chance to gain experience and raise awareness about their home country and culture.

Joris Bervoet, 22, a student from the French Alps who is studying in Belgium, is one of the seven working in Scotland. He is based at Trinity Primary in Edinburgh, where he teaches French and Spanish.

"I was aware that I needed to improve my English to pass my master's degree, so I decided to apply to the Comenius programme to be a language assistant," he said.

"At Trinity Primary, I introduce pupils to French and Spanish. The children get to hear French and get advice on how to express themselves correctly from a French native speaker. Although Spanish is not my mother tongue, I've studied it for 10 years and worked in Spain, so I'm teaching that too."

Comenius assistants working elsewhere in Scotland are: Rianne Driessens, 23, from the Netherlands, at Burntisland Primary; Meryem Kiymaz, 25, from Turkey, at Clydebank High; Eleni Lazarridou, 27, from Greece, at Bo'ness Academy; Alexander Lehner, 26, from Austria, at Aberdeen College; Eva Inari Malessa, 29, from Finland, at Glasgow Gaelic School; and Denitsa Mitkova, 26, from Bulgaria, at Wellington School in Ayr.

There is EUR15 million of European Commission funding available to UK schools, colleges and local authorities through Comenius in 2011.


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