A world in union

25th June 2004 at 01:00
It is European Day in Y Dderi school in the village of Llangybi. Classrooms are decked with the flags and features of a partner country, the children dressed up to match. Pupils are eating appropriate food too: rollmops for Swedes, coleslaw and bean soup for Latvians, pizza and ice cream for lucky Italians. Most of the pupils are actually from English-speaking backgrounds but chatter away fluently in Welsh. Today, however, their favourite greeting is "Ciao."

The dynamic head, Ann Davies, breaks away from her meeting with some European visitors to show The TES round. Y Dderi is a primary with 130 pupils - the result of five, uncontested, village school closures 28 years ago - that is also the local community centre.

This year, two of its teachers have been on 15-day exchanges with partner schools in Norway and Latvia. Once their Sats tests are over, Year 6 pupils will go to their Danish partner school for a week, staying with a host family and visiting Legoland. A teacher and 10 children from Latvia will visit Y Dderi in July.

The school has seized these opportunities more wholeheartedly than most.

But Ceredigion has copious foreign links under its Roots and Wings programme, established in 1995. Based on the European Union's Comenius network, this initially linked schools with counterparts in Vejle in Denmark and Tuscany in Italy, but has since been expanded to include other areas as diverse as the Steiermark in Austria and Malmo in Sweden.

Teachers and pupils attend partnership conferences and visit each other's schools, while heads visit schools in partner areas in groups of three and learn about different models of leadership. Staff exchange ideas about teaching methods and focus on issues such as tackling the under-achievement of boys.

And the foreign links don't stop there. Like nearby Tregaron secondary, Y Dderi has established links with the Nasa space centre in Houston, Texas.

The American astronaut Joe Tanner has been especially keen to keep in touch. His mother came fromI Ceredigion.

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