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Hail the global cyber-citizens

A tiny primary has been rewarded for making worldwide contacts. Nerys Hairon and Jennifer Hawkins report

Forest of Teesdale primary is one of the smallest schools in the country, but it has managed to make itself known around the world.

The school, in Barnard Castle, County Durham, has only 12 pupils, aged four to 11, and its head, Carole Connolly, is its sole full-time teacher. But for half an hour a week pupils make contact via email with children in Russia, India, Australia, Italy, Germany and Malta. They also write letters and exchange Christmas cards, and sometimes visits.

Mrs Connolly said: "This has been timetabled as part of the curriculum, so the children know it's part of their school job. They learn to use technology and about their friends' lives, families and hobbies - and it has allowed friendships to grow. It also makes them aware that they are citizens of the world and that the world is quite a small place."

Last week, the school won an International School Award from the British Council, the body that promotes international educational opportunities and cultural relations.

Mrs Connolly made her first link with Australia two years ago. It was such a success with pupils that she went on to find more global links through the Comenius project, part of the British Council's Socrates programme.

Comenius supports curriculum projects between schools and colleges, staff training opportunities and the development of networks.

But the links made by Forest of Teesdale have not been confined to emails.

Visitors to the school have included a Russian and a Kenyan geologist.

Adam Stobart, 10, said: "It's good because you find out what things children have in other countries, what they do in school, what their favourite subject is and what they are like. We've been sending emails and letters with pictures showing them what we are like."

Hannah Bottomley, 11, said: "I've got two new friends from Ireland, and one from London. I had a Maltese friend and she was really funny because she kept spelling words wrong. It's really fun."

Mrs Connolly spoke to the The TES from Helsinki, where she hopes to make a further link with a Finnish school.

The school was one of 120 to collect awards at a ceremony in London last week, presented by Nicholas Witchell, the BBC's diplomatic correspondent, who has just returned from Baghdad.

Education Secretary Charles Clarke attended the ceremony and announced a further grant of pound;250,000 on top of the current pound;110,000 in funding to expand the award scheme.

Biddick sports college in Washington, Tyne and Wear, also received an award. Pupils there worked on a project about poverty with a Russian school, studied the impact of the Holocaust with a German school and an anti-racist football strategy with the Professional Footballers'


The third annual awards ceremony also included five schools from India to recognise their educational links with the UK.

The International School Awards, which recognise good practice, are open to all schools and pupils from nursery to sixth-form throughout the UK.


* Look for funding to pay for teacher or pupil exchanges. Money can be obtained from the British Council or the League for the Exchange of Commonwealth

* Make the project part of the curriculum. At Forest of Teesdale primary, geography classes focus on pupils' own environment so they can share it with partner schools

* Teachers and schools around the world can be contacted on the ePals website. When links have been made, give pupils a slot each week to deal with emails from abroad

* Schools do not have to be hi-tech to make global links - pupils find it exciting to get packages from abroad with foreign stamps on them.

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