Case study: Kelvin Hall school, Hull

26th September 2003 at 01:00
I came to Hull from Germany 14 years ago to train and work as a languages teacher at Kelvin Hall, an inner-city comprehensive. Initially I found it difficult to overcome the suspicion our pupils displayed of anything foreign (even myself), but soon realised that its source was insecurity and lack of familiarity rather than hostility. As Philip Larkin wrote, Hull is a place "where only salesmen and relations come". But I look back now with a certain amount of pride, as I've achieved my aims of bringing the international world into our school.

Being German, my first priority was linking with Germany. I then discovered the British Council's wealth of information and funding. The joint co-ordinator of its European resource centre, Ray Kirtley, of Hull University, played a key role, supplying information on courses and projects on international linking, and supporting me with the paperwork. I turned to him when our German exchange school in Augsburg asked us to get involved in a Comenius project with schools in Turin and Seville. Comenius is the school education arm of the Europe-wide Socrates programme, supporting joint curriculum projects between schools and colleges, staff training opportunities and the development of networks. Our project lasted from 1997 to 2000 and involved teacher visits abroad as well as work with pupils. I also discovered the benefits of involving teachers from other departments, as I needed specialist help with the project content and administrative work.

Gradually, more projects developed: some through official organisations and some of my own making. But it was only embedded in the school curriculum when we applied for the British Council's international school award - which we've won twice in the past four years. I had to present a three-year plan showing whole-school involvement in international work, write an international policy, and appoint the international co-ordinator. These are some of the things we've done:

* Exchanges and study trips to Germany and France.

* Getting language assistants from Hungary and Romania.

* Pen pal scheme with a school in Pecz, Hungary.

* Work experience students coming from Germany.

* European Awareness Days and Comenius projects.

* Teacher placements for a foreign partner school.

* Art and design and technology projects, including a logo for European Awareness Day.

* Link and pen pal scheme with School 328 in St Petersburg. Maths faculty visit funded by Teachers' International Professional Development programme.

Head's visit funded by British Council. Pupil exchange visit.

* Visit of headteacher of African partner school to Hull.

* Letter exchange between Kelvin Hall students and students in Freetown, capital of Sierra Leone.

The benefits are hard to quantify, but the question "Why do I have to learn GermanFrench?" has disappeared. Pupils are happy to learn foreign languages, or at least to learn about other cultures and meet people from abroad. MFL results have improved and more and more pupils want to participate in trips, exchanges and projects. Links take up a lot of time; to keep them going I call anyone, anywhere, to maintain the contact, even if it means phoning Sierra Leone at strange hours. I also rely heavily on email. Teamwork is essential and all international work must have the active backing of the headteacher, the governors and the parents. And staff at Kelvin Hall don't see it as additional workload, but as an opportunity for professional and personal development. Our maths department, in particular, always gets involved. Colleagues' participation has given me time for co-ordination and searching for new links and the next project - a part of my job I really like.

Claudia Lorenz is head of modern foreign languages, advanced skills teacher for languages and internationalco-ordinator at Kelvin Hall school, Hull

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