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Spanish academy steps from Barcelona to Strathclyde

First they take our footballers, now they are after our teaching innovations. The Universitat de Autonoma de Barcelona has become the first university to replicate Strathclyde University's summer academy.

Following a pilot last September with 40 pupils, the Spanish university has launched its own summer academy with 240 students, using techniques developed in Scotland.

Two pupils from its first cohort joined the academy in Strathclyde, while two Scots attended the new school in Barcelona.

International interest in the academy, which began in 1999 targeting students from S3 who were not fulfilling their academic potential, has been growing. By next year it is expected that a similar academy will be set up in Holland.

For the first time, this year there was a large contingent of overseas students from five other countries attending the course at Strathclyde.

"We've had one or two before, but this is the first year we have had such a large group," said Christine Percival, director of the summer academy and the Innovative Routes to Learning, which developed the academy. "We had students from Norway, Sweden, Spain, Holland and Germany, who have heard of it through the internet, schools or alumni."

They joined the thousands of Scottish pupils from Strathclyde and its hinterlands on two-week courses held over the summer, focusing on a "progressive challenge" curriculum. The young people begin with short challenges and then move on to longer trials, culminating in a two-and-a-half day challenge at the end.

"We call it stealth learning," added Mrs Percival. "The pupils don't even realise that they are learning."

All the foreign students had to take the challenges in English, along with the Scottish students.

"Our young people are not only benefiting from the social mix of doing the academy, but are also experiencing a new cultural mix," said Mrs Percival.

Peter Peacock is due to check out the academy next Thursday, continuing a tradition of ministerial visits there that began with Jack McConnell when he was Education Minister.

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