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Depth of feeling touches all pupils

TESHSBC special school link award Prize pound;500

Dorton House special school for the visually impaired near Sevenoaks, Kent, is linked with Milton Margai school in Freetown, the only school for the blind in Sierra Leone, where some pupils lost their sight in the rebel war and many lost family as well.

Having communicated using braille letters for two years, Milton Margai pupils and their teacher, who is also visually impaired, visited Dorton House in July - an unforgettable experience for both schools.

Broadening the horizons of visually impaired children is a challenge, says Mary Berg, key stage 34 co-ordinator. "For some, even down the road is another planet. It is very difficult to get a feel for another environment.

So it was wonderful for them to hear, touch and 'see' the Milton Margai pupils and get a feel for Sierra Leone by talking to them."

Dorton House pupils are amazed at the African pupils' ease of movement, developed in the "school of hard knocks" - they get to know their environment through bumping into things. In England, the African pupils took part in formal mobility training, and used the "tactile" maths equipment. A joint music project has been a huge success and thanks to an interest in African music brought about by the link, world music is now part of the Dorton House syllabus. A joint arts project has been started using drawing which can be "felt". It has brought art to the Milton Margai curriculum for the first time.

"The aim of the link is to bring a global dimension into all areas of the curricula in both schools," Ms Berg said.

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