Into the East via Africa

30th June 2006 at 01:00
One school is succeeding in convincing pupils they can change the world. Yojana Sharma reports

Some of us are white chocolate, some of us are dark chocolate, and some of us are milk chocolate, but we are all in the same box of treats. That's the way one Ghanaian teacher put it.

This folksy way of describing international differences im-pressed pupils from Polesworth high, in rural Warwickshire, when they visited their link school in Pampawie village, in Ghana.

Even as they noted the cultural, social and economic differences, the link highlighted how much they had in common with pupils at Pampawie junior high, in Ghana's cocoa-producing region.

The link created a real bond. It also changed the way the English pupils saw their own lives. Chris Willmott, 16, said: "Before I went, I was a bit fed up with GCSEs, but the visit gave me real motivation to study when I saw in Ghana how they crave education."

Head boy James Ruht, 15, said that he had hardly watched TV since.

"I'd rather work on things that will stay with me for the rest of my life," he said. These include mastering a musical instrument.

On Tuesday, the school will recieve a Leading Aspect award for best practice for its "internationalising" of the curriculum and for its development education and linking work.

The Ghana visit last year was just one aspect of its exemplary international links. Thanks to drama teacher Sharon Leftwich, some 36 curriculum projects have emerged from the six-year-old African partnership.

These range from studying Ghanaian batik methods in GCSE textiles to learning about recycling from the way Pampawie villagers re-use everything.

Andy Clarke, headteacher, said: "The link is about values and persuading kids that they can change the world."

Ofsted has praised Polesworth's international dimension and described it as outstanding. Every student was aware, every department was doing something, the inspectors said.

Polesworth is now developing links with schools in India and China. A year-old link with the Bharatiya Vidhya Bhavan's Vidyasharam school in Jaipur, focuses on the arts, music, dance and drama as well as religion, The international projects at Polesworth have helped to enrich the curriculum, made the school a more exciting place for teachers and pupils to work and have helped to attract new staff, said Mr Clarke, fresh from a visit to Shenzhen, near Hong Kong. "It creates a buzz in the school," he said.

pound;25,000 of prizes for linkingThere are pound;25,000 of prizes in this year's TESHSBC Make the Link awards for schools and colleges working with partners overseas. Find your entry form on our campaign website, www.tes.co.ukMake_the_Linkawards. The deadline for online and postal entries is July 21. The Make the Link campaignis supported by HSBC and the British Council

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