A new dimension to world vision

7th August 2009 at 01:00
Perth High's approach to all things international won it Glasgow City Council International Schools prize

Perth high doesn't know the meaning of "parochial". The name of the game for this secondary is "international".

Every pupil is exposed to international education across the curriculum, with interdisciplinary work embracing 14 of the school's 18 subjects, and everyone has the opportunity to participate in at least one major international visit. The school's efforts have been recognised in the Scottish Education Awards, where it picked up the Glasgow City Council international schools prize.

Even before children arrive in S1, staff have introduced an international dimension to the learning of the P6-7s in its associated primaries by hosting an international citizenship conference for them. In the lead-up to the event, the primary pupils investigate the challenges of sustainable development, environmental issues and economic development, and look at aspects of language, culture and music. On the day itself, they take part in a live video connection to partner schools, usually in South Africa.

But it is when they arrive at secondary that the international work really kicks in.

As headteacher Jim Scott says: "Our intention is that our pupils leave us significantly more confident, more aware, more effective and better qualified to operate in the world economy of the 21st century than potential competitors."

To achieve that goal, the school developed seven major cross-curricular themes, the first of which is international education. The others are vocation and enterprise, outdoors, literacy, numeracy, health and well- being, and technology.

Much of the impetus for the international work comes from Fiona Keatings, depute head and international co-ordinator for the school. "The big, glitzy things like the trip to Shanghai were easy to grab on to, but our international work had to live in the classroom within normal subjects that everyone could be connected to," she says.

A six-year programme was devised, with six main international objectives: global citizenship; language; business and enterprise; history; music and culture; and environment and geography. Its main international contexts are Europe, Asia, Africa and North America.

Two years ago, 22 S6 pupils took part in a business and cultural visit to Shanghai. "All the indications were that China was becoming a major player in the world market, so we decided that would be the next big thing to go after," explains Mrs Keatings.

The school is now developing a conservation angle in its links with China. Through its new business partner, Scottish Southern, which is looking at the power industry's carbon footprint, it will visit the panda reserve in Chengdu and combine it with a visit to Beijing and Ulan Bator in Mongolia.

Connections to India are being developed through a partnership with Perth College.

"We are trying to make them into young international citizens, but there is also an aspect of making them proud young Scots," says Mrs Keatings. "It has made us reflect on our own culture and how we are translating that, and how much they know about their culture and heritage."

Funding comes from a number of sources. By convincing the Perth business community that the school is producing youngsters with an awareness of Chinese culture, a knowledge of Chinese business etiquette and some level of Mandarin, Perth High has gained its financial support. It hopes to open up its Confucius classrooms to local businesses to help them learn Mandarin and more about Chinese culture.

The school has also been able to access some local trust funds for funding.

"One of the kids we had in Shanghai in 2007 made his university choice on the basis of that experience. He is now studying Mandarin and international business in Edinburgh and is one of only two state-school pupils on the course. He's getting opportunities offered to him already by business as a direct result of his personal connections with China," says Mrs Keatings.


- S1-2 Pupils study China and South Africa in the social studies programme and work with teachers from art and design, home economics, music, PE and languages to prepare for a day of Chinese New Year celebrations

- S3-4 Joint work between modern studies and modern languages leads to a visit to the European Parliament and cross-border French and German language opportunities

- S4-5 Joint work in modern studies, computing, music and home economics leads to a biennial visit to three twinned schools in Eastern Cape province in South Africa; on alternate years, pupils and teachers from South Africa come to Perth High

- S5-6 Joint work in modern languages, business education, biology and personal and social education leads to a biennial two-week visit to China

An annual joint art and design and English trip to North America - usually New York - is organised to study US literature, visit art galleries and experience American culture. A twinning arrangement also involving the music department is under development

Perth High is negotiating with schools in India and Australia to provide experiences which fit into aspects of its English, maths and science curriculum, with a view to developing a "rich tasks" consortium, based on internet activity and exchange programmes

Pupils have experienced enhanced sporting activities, including football training with Feyenoord FC in Holland and skiing in Europe and the US

It has an eight-year twinning programme with No.1 Middle School, Haikou, Hainan in China, a programme supported by its local Chinese community and Perth and Kinross Council's economic development department.

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