Europe in the frame

Gerald Haigh

Given the sometimes fragile relationships between European countries, I suspect that many politicians would be taken aback were they to realise the vigour and extent of the pan-European links which exist between schools.

The fruits of a particularly successful initiative were on show recently when a panel of judges met at Eurotunnel's Folkestone headquarters. They made awards of student travel bursaries to secondary schools participating in the European Union and business-sponsored European Communities Project.

The challenge had been to produce, using either video or photographs with audio tape, a portrait of the school's home area, showing its character, the community at work and, particularly, the way that it relates to the rest of Europe.

There were 65 entries from 13 European Union countries. Quality, as you might expect, was variable. Some groups of students had gone to a great deal of trouble, both in their planning and in technical execution. Others turned in something with more potential than actuality.

But the best entries were emotionally engaging as well as polished and informative. From the Liceo Ginnasio Statale G Parini in Milan, for example, came an enchanting account with a poetic and well-spoken English sound track of a local initiative bringing together young people and senior citizens. This entry won an award for outstanding work with the local community.

Also combining artistry and information was the deeply evocative tape-slide sequence "Man and Land" from Havalsoe Skole in Denmark which earned best audio-photographic entry. (The students had also provided an explanatory leaflet in four languages).

An award for effective communication and reporting went to the Goethe Gymnasium of Stolberg in Germany, whose students had taken full advantage of their proximity to the Netherlands to make a video about the interchange that goes on between the two countries.

The top award the Canon Award for the best video went to "A Day in the Life of a Luxembourger", made by students of the Lycee Hubert-Clement in Esch-sur-Alzette. Their film was just good fun. There was, for example, a black-and-white Chaplinesque sequence in which the family cross the border to France, buy Italian pizza in a supermarket and generally demonstrate the way that Luxembourg is very much at the heart of Europe. In common with some of the other entries, it deserves a wider audience.

This was the project's second year, and director John Aldridge feels that there has been a general improvement. "People have been a lot more adventurous getting out of their schools, engaging with their communities." Part of the improvement, he explained, is due to training support from sponsors. "We ran a workshop last October, with BBC producers, which was attended by 20 teachers from seven countries.

In case you are wondering, there were entries from UK schools. Some were good, but none made it into the awards. Still it was always obvious that the task of making the video or producing the pictures had been educational and rewarding "Process is as important as product," as John Aldridge put it.

Teachers can register their schools for next year's project, closing date September 22 1995. Contact the European Communities Project, Warren Cottage, Warren Lane, Woolpit, Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk IP30 9RT. Phonefax 01359 242838

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