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Glasgow school picks up accolade for focus on diversity and the community

St Stephen's is the last primary school standing in Glasgow's Sighthill area.

St Stephen's is the last primary school standing in Glasgow's Sighthill area.

With the Red Road flats providing homes to hundreds, if not thousands, of asylum-seekers who come to Glasgow, this is a school where 54 per cent of pupils do not speak English as their first language; there are 42 different languages spoken within its precincts.

The challenge for staff was to work on pupils' relationships with each other and build a feeling of community among children who had arrived from every corner of the earth.

The judges of the Scottish Education Awards felt they had more than risen to the challenge: "As well as respect for other cultures, traditions and beliefs, the children at St Stephen's demonstrated a deep sense of pride in their local community, Sighthill, and in Scotland." The school was, in their opinion, a worthy winner of this year's global citizenship award.

Kathleen Black, a P5 teacher in 2008-09 and P3-4 teacher in 2009-10, led an initiative on global citizenship that was to permeate the whole school. Its focus was both local and global - giving pupils a better link with their own community in Sighthill and an understanding of customs and ways of life in other countries.

"My P5 class last year looked at relationships in the first term," she says. "We decided to look at the countries of the pupils in the class, but we started with our local community and the people who helped us here, and asked ourselves what we could do to help them."

So the children visited a local nursing home at Christmas and performed a carol concert for the elderly. They collected their pocket money at the school's Advent service and donated it to the St Nicholas Care Fund. They raised money for Breast Cancer Care, Yorkhill Hospital and the Prince and Princess of Wales Hospice.

The Giant Arts project was a key plank of the programme: using photography, writing and art activities, St Stephen's pupils worked alongside other schools to record images and feelings about the local area.

With many of the high-rise flats marked for demolition, the activities enabled children to record their fond memories of the area, says Miss Black.

Mbarak Shihab, who will move up to St Roch's Secondary this summer, particularly enjoyed the chance to draw Sighthill's tall buildings.

"I like the fact there are lots of people from other countries here and I can learn about other countries and new religions," he says, adding that his three best friends in school come from the Philippines, England and Sri Lanka.

The school's film about international education was showcased at last year's Scottish Learning Festival. It illustrated how children learnt about each others' cultures by reading and listening to stories in multiple languages and learning about international mythology through stories such as Medusa and The Lion and the Mouse.

Global citizenship appears across the curriculum: in P3-4, children made African masks in art, and in P5-6, international fruits. This led to research into national flags, costumes and the geographical locations of countries. All classes have a world map on which they identify countries as they crop up in lessons.

One of the parents runs an African heritage group, Afreshe, and offered P5-6 pupils the chance to take part in a Ugandan dance class, which included the chance to wear traditional costumes and learn Ugandan jubilation calls. P6 pupils have since completed a series of world dance lessons.

Miss Black says: "We have been learning to speak several different languages and by the end of the session, everyone had learnt how to greet and thank each other in 10 new languages.

"The children and staff can exchange a few words in each of the languages and can greet each other, visitors and new pupils in their mother tongues."

But St Stephen's never forgets its Scottish roots, and its pupils have celebrated St Andrew's Day with a concert and Burns Day with a special assembly of Scots songs, poetry and dances. They have visited Bannockburn and learnt about famous contemporary Scots.

"The main focus was to build relationships and create a greater sense of pride in the local community and the fact that we are a unique school," Miss Black concludes.

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