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Making the link

DIncreasing pressure on curriculum time, health and safety legislation and parents' anxieties about overseas travel have all taken their toll on the number of international visits schools offer.

Yet the potential of a practical global dimension in education is increasingly apparent, particularly if a school chooses to go beyond a narrow interpretation of the citizenship curriculum.

To aid this, a new website (www.globalgateway.org), sponsored by the Department for Education and Skills and developed by the British Council, is now up and running. It aims to be a one-stop shop providing comprehensive information on how to develop an international dimension in education.

The site is easy to use and has sections designed for teachers, school leaders, parents, governors, local authorities and young people.

The teachers section is the most useful. It includes lesson material for eight themed modules for key stages 2 and 3 (including energy, global weather, fashion and travel), as well as a database for linking up with schools in other parts of the world.

Schools wishing to find a partner in another country can register and be given contacts. As a security measure, no personal email addresses are allowed.

There are approximately 200 sovereign countries and so far 1,600 schools from 66 nations have contacted the global gateway site looking for a partner from as far afield as Fiji, the United States, Ghana, Chile, China and across Europe.

I was rather less convinced of the value of the site's news service and the country descriptions, which were superficial. They can certainly be bettered by any decent geography reference book.

If you need further help there is a live chat box that connects you with a British Council operator. This offers further advice on where to find information on the Global Gateway site and details on the British Council and its operations.

One word of warning: you need to use the correct address to find the site.

Look for "global gateway" at most search engines and you will end up visiting an organisation with a similar web-address that is promoting aspects of Northern Ireland.

Rex Walford, a geographer, is a fellow of Wolfson College, Cambridge, and former head of the department of education at the University of CambridgeOther school linking sites: One World UK Linking Association (www.ukowla.org.uk); Link Community Development (www.lcd.org.uk); and DFID's Global Schools Partnerships (www.britishcouncil.orgglobalschools)

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