A door to the world opens - without dressing up

10th March 2006 at 00:00
We wanted a different kind of World Book Day - one that wouldn't force staff to dress up in outrageous character costumes again. A tall order for any literacy co-ordinator, but much simplified thanks to the British Council. Within three weeks, an initial idea was turned into a reality - and the world arrived at the doors of St Martin's school.

Within days of an email requesting help, Emily Johnson, our regional services officer for the British Council, had asked six postgraduate international students at local universities to visit us. She also issued email addresses for our staff to begin to plan a very different day for their class.

Even the travel arrangements were catered for. All we had to promise was to lunch and refreshments. Our guests represented Syria, Indonesia, Argentina, Iran, Venezuela and the Dominican Republic, and two even arrived in national costume - a good photo opportunity for the local newspaper.

The children were treated to presentations about life in each country, heard traditional songs and stories, and asked questions that they had prepared during internet research before the visit. Sebastian from Argentina taught Year 2 to dance the tango, while Year 3 learned to cook traditional arepas bread with Grecia from Venezuela, and even learned some Spanish.

It was a great way for children to develop the social skills required for meeting new people and learning about the world beyond their doorstep. They listened well, and the event allowed pupils to see themselves as citizens in their world community. Our day ended with a whole-school assembly and presentations of cards signed by all pupils.

The Scholars in2 Schools scheme aims to help create meaningful links between local schoolchildren and British Council scholars, adding an international dimension to the curriculum or any project. It certainly worked for us, and culminated in a day that everyone will remember.

Children asked whether their new friends would be returning again, and staff made international friends.

Our guests, who were also meeting each other for the first time, thanked us for allowing them to learn first-hand about life in the UK as well as developing their understanding of each other's countries. There was a real feeling that the school had served as a meeting ground where ideas could be shared and new friendships formed. Everyone benefited from a World Book Day that embraced the exciting potential of global communication.

Sarah Bott is deputy head of St Martin's C of E primary school in Tipton, West Midlands

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