"I wanted to get the children out into the world and the world into the school," says David Eynon, head of St Cenydd's comprehensive school in Caerphilly. Over the past four years, the school has hosted an annual Millennium Lecture, on or near March 1, St David's Day.
"I was discussing the advent of the millennium with a colleague," says Eynon. "And we decided to build on one of our general aims, which is the need to encourage children to develop self-confidence." Located near Cardiff, where the M4 corridor meets the South Wales valleys, St Cenydd's has 1,150 pupils. With the area's mines all closed, new skills are needed to cope with a post-industrial society.
The school's Millennium Lectures have explored what Eynon calls "the issues which will greet you, excite you and possibly trouble you on January 1,2000". The keynote has been variety. The first speaker, Dr Anthony Harvey, sub-dean of Westminster Abbey, spoke on the future of Christianity, while the second, Dr Nicholas Mitchell, an astronomer and physicist, gave a scientist's view of faith and reason.
In 1998, Glenys Kinnock talked about gender and children's rights, in the context of Europe, while this year Graham Hawker, chief executive of Hyder plc, Wales's largest multinational, analysed globalisation. "The lecture was a way of having a different focus each year," says Eynon,"and we've been able to link it with our own projects for developing citizenship and civic issues." Audiences of 250 to 300 sixth-formers, including pupils from other schools, have responded well.
"There's no reason why speakers who visit large schools in Cardiff shouldn't come to the valleys," says Eynon. "The themes came together very quickly and the event has helped us to build up our sixth form - it's grown from about 65 to 165 students in five years." Caerphilly LEA provided a new sixth-form centre.
With the lectures completed, says Eynon, "Our intention is to publish them both in book form and on the school's website, so they can be used as a teaching resource." St Cenydd's was one of the first schools in Wales to have a website, "and it includes some curriculum materials already".
The school's sixth-formers help update the site. Most of the lectures have a clear curriculum follow-up, "especially the one on Europe, and the rest were food for thought and debate and informal discussion."
"We want to encourage children not only to have confidence in new technologies," says Eynon, "but also to see themselves as part of a global society."
For the year 2000, Eynon plans to have a "live video conference debate on the new millennium with some Australian schools". A trial in May saw 15 Year 10 students swap e-mails and hold a live video conference with Kelso High School in Bathurst, New South Wales. "It was a big success," says Eynon, "and it's more than just a nice idea, it's part of a learning journey."
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