Initiative full of Eastern promise

2nd June 2006 at 01:00
The rewards cut both ways when schools raise funds for an international project. Four lucky Dalkeith pupils are heading to India to see the fruits of the labours, reports Su Clark

When Sir Tom Farmer, the millionaire founder of Kwik-Fit, was invited to St David's High, Dalkeith in January 2005, the headteacher had modest hopes that he might support the school's overseas project in India.

She wasn't disappointed: he promised to match any funds raised by pupils towards their Working for Our World project.

Sir Tom had been expecting to write a cheque for hundreds of pounds. But the pupils had much greater sums in mind: the target was pound;20,000 in 12 months to support the school's adopted organisation, the Association of People with Disability in Bangalore.

"It was ambitious and the management committee of 16 pupils from each year group and staff, plus the six sub-committees, were determined to reach it," says Marian Docherty, the headteacher. "By October we still had quite a long way to go; we had only raised pound;15,000."

Then, with Christmas, came a flurry of activity, including a pantomime featuring pupils and teachers, a Santa's grotto, a ceilidh, carol singing, children busking and a card and calendar business.

Almost 12 months to the day of his promise, Sir Tom willingly handed over a cheque for pound;20,000.

Most of the money has been given to the Scottish Catholic International Aid Fund to help APD, which plans to extend its activities to 150 communities around Bangalore, upgrade some of its equipment and set up a vocational training programme to provide disabled young people and children with skills that give them hope of future employment.

In the previous two years the school had raised more than pound;17,000 for them.

"It isn't just about raising money and sending it to India. It is more of an education for our children," says Mrs Docherty, who has been headteacher at the Midlothian school for nearly three years.

"It is an important opportunity for our pupils. We have learnt from them.

It has encouraged us to work more closely with Saltersgate special school, which shares this campus."

As well as attracting philanthropic interest from Sir Tom, the school has had Determined to Succeed funding from the Scottish Executive to develop its enterprise and global citizenship education, and much of this has focused on Bangalore.

The school has upgraded its own equipment to include video conferencing and a media suite to allow links with India. It has also galvanised a drive to put the project at the heart of the school and the curriculum.

"We are embedding the relationship within our curriculum. Quite a few subject areas are already involved, such as art, music, enterprise, media studies, business education, photography, geography and English," says Charles McPhillips, the depute headteacher, who is visiting Bangalore with four pupils this month.

One project developed for the fifth and sixth years taking media studies involves producing a DVD featuring Scottish culture and dialects. That will be shared with young people in India to help them understand Scotland.

In the art department, Indian art and culture is explored. Four years ago, art teacher Fiona Cairns was given a day a week within her timetable to develop links with SCIAF. Students now study Indian jewellery making and design.

Teachers from the music department have embraced the Indian connection, adding an introduction to music from the sub-continent to the S1 and S2 curriculum.

"We touch on it in the certified courses and have listened to raags, a form of classical music from India, and we've also listened to some crossover music, where Western style is blended with Eastern," says Graham McDonald.

The real jewel in the crown is the collection of tabla drums, purchased last year. Ten pupils so far, mostly from the younger year groups, have taken up the instrument and a local experienced tabla drummer comes in to give tuition.

"The pupils are taking it as part of their certificate course," explains Mr McDonald. "Our tutor, Mike Black, is flexible and comes in once or twice a week to give group tuition. Some of the students even manage two sessions a week with him."

Some are keen to try other Indian instruments and Mr McDonald, a keyboard specialist, has been pricing the small harmoniums used in India.

In geography, an Indian unit has been introduced, while the PE department did a session on Indian dance. Within ICT, online learning resources are being developed that can be shared with schools in India.

"With modern technology, anything we have they can have," says Mrs Docherty.

The link has also helped enrich religious education by giving pupils access to a community that has different faiths.

"Religion underpins the ethos of our school, but this link helps make it so much more," she adds. "It translates into direct action that the children can be involved in. It makes all their subjects so much more relevant to them."

It is not just St David's High that is benefiting from the link. Its eight feeder primary schools are also being encouraged to be involved. Part of the money raised by the high school has been used to set up video conferencing systems with the primaries as well as APD in India.

"We spent pound;8,500 on the video conferencing equipment for our school," explains ICT teacher Mahendra Khanna. "Now we are buying dedicated computer equipment at a cost of pound;400 for each primary school. So far four of the eight are linked up to us.

"We are using these links to develop a programme for transition between P6 and S1. Teachers, like myself, will be doing some classes with the primary pupils and the sixth years have been talking to them about the school."

Mr Khanna recently linked with five pupils from St Mary's Primary in Bonnyrigg to give them insight into using spreadsheets to produce animation. The girls were enthusiastic.

"We do want to develop a link with the Indian project," says the school's headteacher, Mary Iannerelli. "We are currently thinking about how we can do that."

St David's High's Determined to Succeed money will run for another two years, but Mrs Docherty is convinced that this gives enough time to build a strong relationship that will last far beyond the life of the funding.

Meanwhile, she is hopeful the initial contact Sir Tom made with the project in India via video conferencing may lead somewhere. He told APD workers that if they wanted him to visit, then all they had to do was ask. Mrs Docherty knows where that can lead.


Enterprise and global citizenship are intrinsically linked to the Bangalore project. Sir Tom's promise to double the money raised by the school stoked the pupils' ingenuity and produced many innovations.

The third year Standard grade group, working with business education teacher Iris Gulcher, opted to make Christmas cards and calendars with a difference.

"Someone from SCIAF had brought back designs from the disabled children and young people in India and we decided to use them for Christmas cards," explains Jamie Blair, 14, who was the managing director of the project.

The group is now pricing the option of framing prints of the designs.

"After that we are thinking of auctioning off the originals," says Taylor Crockett, 14, the administrative officer.

The group also set up companies to sell Easter eggs and bulbs, and it is negotiating about producing friendship photographs. These would complement the traditional individual and family school pictures.

"It makes it more exciting when you know what you are doing is real," says Jamie.

The TES Make the Link campaign aims to encourage schools to make lasting

partnerships with schools in other countries through ties that * develop an international curriculum, engaging pupils with European and global issues,

* help pupils to become active global citizens, and

* share expertise and experience.

If you are doing good work in these areas through a link, let us know by emailing

For advice on global ties and our TESHSBC Make the Link awards, see

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