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Smiles are a ray of sunshine for the Black Isle

COMPARE, contrast and be prepared for the odd surprise is all part of the international experience. At Fortrose Academy on the Black Isle, a link with a Malawian school opened eyes and minds.

"Our pupils are always taken aback when they see a classroom with 60-70 pupils in it and they are all smiling. We have got an awful lot from this link," John Tracey, depute head, said.

Mr Tracey is one of a number of teachers who contributed to HMI's self-evaluation document on international education and one of the first to test it. It helped give the various strands across the school a sharper focus, he said.

As a geographer, "the world is what we use for teaching" and encouraging pupils to look beyond the four walls of the classroom is a key aim. "The farther the better," Mr Tracey insists.

When analysing the school's involvement in the global dimension, he expected to find it in modern studies, modern languages and in his own subject.

But he also found it in Standard grade English where pupils devised a computer quiz on Third World poverty and child labour and in Standard grade art and design where pupils raised issues around sustainability in considering new school outbuildings.

Among other aspects of its policy, the school has a long-established link with Provence in France and hopes to forge contacts with schools in four other countries through the European Commission's Comenius programme.

Success in its international work led ministers two years ago to launch their document on the Global Dimension in the Curriculum - a Learning and Teaching Scotland production - at Fortrose.

"Preparing for that date was our first real effort at doing self-evaluation. It wasn't completely formalised and there was a wee bit of panic about it but it was about celebrating success. It got us started on the road about self-evaluation in international education," Mr Tracey confessed.

Hope Johnston, head of the Scottish Executive's international division, said that HMI's publication was the outcome of more than a decade's work.

It had begun with a European Community dimension in the early 1990s but internationalism was now beamed into every living room.

"It's not something schools can now avoid and they have to address this," Ms Johnston said.

Environmental and global issues were common currency and, nearer home, anti-racism and immigration were hot topics.

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