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Take your partner

There's still time to take part in an environmental competition with a French school, says Bernard Adams

This spring there is a chance for primary and secondary schools to enter for a pound;5,000 award which can be used for environmental projects in partnership with French schools.

The Franco-British Council School Partnership prize is awarded for an environmental undertaking which involves a French partner school. The plan for the project must be submitted by May 14, the winner will be announced at the end of the summer term and the project itself will take place next academic year. The prize money can be used to create a real or virtual link between French and British schools or an exchange.

Dorothy Stringer High School in Brighton won the first prize of pound;2,600. The school, a mixed 11to 16 comprehensive with 1,500 pupils, has joint environmental co-ordinators - Robert Sandercock, who teaches geography and Dr Dan Danahar, who teaches science.

Dr Danahar said: "The project allowed me to follow up a personal interest.

My doctorate was for studies of chalk grassland and I always had the idea of working with colleagues in France."

Robert Sandercock's geography classes have been involved with the Sussex Wildlife Trust. "Quite near we have one of the most biologically diverse habitats in the country, Malling Down. And there are Filsham Reed beds just outside Hastings. We've been observing management practices at these and other sites. One of the differences we have found already with the environmental situation in France is that probably because they have so much more space environmental management and conservation are much less developed than here," he said.

Dorothy Stringer's partner is the Institut St Josef, a mixed comprehensive with 1,000 pupils aged 11 to 19 in Le Havre. The Brighton school's environmental co-ordinators have visited already, accompanied by a parent with environmental interests and fluent French.

Mr Sandercock said: "Over there they have wetland areas, chalk grassland like us and also coastal rock arches. We will take a party across in June and the prize money will be very useful to defray travel expenses and provide cover for teaching."

Teresa Christopher is the geography co-ordinator at Penzance Junior School, Cornwall, which last year won the second prize of pound;2,400.

She said: "There were three days until the deadline for entry, so I talked to my class about what they wanted to study in the local environment. The trouble was we didn't have a twin, but we eventually found one, cole Rene Daniel, at Philibert which is close to the coast near Concarneau."

Penzance Junior has 180 pupils. Teresa said: "Our school has a high percentage of free school meals and it's very sad that many pupils don't get outside their home area very much. Children need to experience and understand their environment if they are to protect it."

The Year 5s are doing beach studies and have visited the Silver Dolphin Centre at Porthleven. "We work with them quite closely and we have been studying the number of dolphin deaths around the Cornish coastline," Teresa said.

The Penzance Junior pupils have so far been in postal contact with their French partners about their beach investigations and will soon be communicating by email. This summer they will go to Philibert to visit cole Rene Daniel.

"We'll present the French children with a resource pack about Penzance and we hope to start building a lasting link," said Teresa.

Both last year's prize-winning schools experienced difficulties communicating with their partner schools but overcame them. Teresa Christopher has arranged for her children to have extra French lessons with a teacher at a secondary school and she will take an intensive course in French before the June visit. At Dorothy Stringer students are fast-tracked to do GCSE French early and both the environmental co-ordinators found that they could manage better than they expected when the conversation was in French.

Application form from Ann Kenrick, Franco-British Council, 16-18 Strutton Ground, London SW1P 2HPTel: 020 7976 8380. Fax: 020 7976 8131 Email: Information is also available on the website about finding French partner schools

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