A video-conferencing project in Hampshire is linking pupils with schools across Europe, writes Sean Coughlan.
Using the Eutelsat communications satellite, secondary schools and further education colleges are taking part in live video exchanges with counterparts in countries including Austria, Slovenia and France.
For an hour, and without charge to the schools, groups of students in different countries share the airwaves, presenting project work to one another on pre-arranged topics and trying out their language skills. Among the topics addressed by participating schools have been the environment, recycling, local history and geography.
The transmissions are planned in advance by the schools and project co-ordinator Stan Spooner, to make the most of the time available. But there is still enough of the atmosphere of live broadcasting to keep up the levels of curiosity, excitement and shyness, as the students face the camera.
After these video introductions, many of the schools have developed follow-up twinning schemes, with exchange visits between both pupils and staff.
As a result of broadcasts to a high school in Austria, and subsequent exchange trips, representatives of the City of Portsmouth Boys' school were invited back to the country as guests of the Austrian ministry for education.
The studio for the broadcasts is the Portsmouth base of the sponsors, Matra Marconi, and schools from Hampshire, West Sussex, Kent and Wiltshire have taken part. There have already been broadcasts to the Ukraine and this year there are plans to broaden the satellite network to educational institutions in Russia.
For more information about the project contact Stan Spooner, Education and Training Consultancy, 28 Marine Court, Southsea, Hants PO4 9QU. Tel: 01705 839585