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London teachers get a taste of school life in the West Bank

Eleven teachers from north London have spent this half-term teaching at schools in the West Bank.

The nine secondary staff, one primary teacher and one behaviour specialist took part in a scheme organised by the British Council and a local organisation working in a Palestinian suburb of Jerusalem.

They toured schools in the suburb of Abu Dis, learning about the Palestinian education system and were then allocated a school.

Nandita Dowson, who organised the trip, said: "They said to me, 'Will there be projectors? Will there be Smartboards?' I had to tell them that the norm in Palestinian schools is blackboards and chalk and kids sitting in rows."

As a travel and tourism teacher, Helen Saunders, BTec co-ordinator at Hampstead School in Camden, intended to teach Abu Dis pupils about Britain as a holiday destination. "For a lot of them, the concept of holidays will be very alien," she said. "But then, a lot of our students also live very narrow lives. Some haven't been outside London."

Michelle Sherriff, IT teacher at Parliament Hill, hopes that the trip will help her relate better to the large numbers of Muslim and refugee pupils at her school. But she suspects that the Palestinian teachers' concerns will put her own into perspective.

"We worry about behaviour," she said. "But some of their kids will be disaffected because they've seen horrific things happening because they've lost hope. They don't see the point of education, and teachers can't promise that education will help the way it can in England."

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