Magical days in land of reindeer

29th April 2005 at 01:00
There are perks for the profession but they are not completely free. In my school, all the teachers have been involved with developing programmes and lessons specifically relating to the teaching of Welsh as a second language.

The project, A Living Language (ALL), has produced documents aimed at helping primary pupils in Year 6 with the transition to secondary. We have shared these resources with others in our cluster of schools and the teachers in the Welsh department of our local comprehensive school.

The school accessed grants from various sources to fund ALL, and has worked closely with ESIS, the education support and improvement service, to discuss and observe what are considered to be positive methods of teaching Welsh as a second language.

An advisory teacher specialising in this has visited the school and given demonstration lessons with pupils of different ages. These have been observed by teachers from Spain and Finland as well as some from Wales.

This is a specialist resource which is extra to the usual services that the school has to fund.

We have benefited from observing expertise elsewhere, and also from visiting other schools in more remote areas and seeing how the local people keep their culture going.

One visit which has made an indelible impression on me and three of my colleagues was to the northernmost school in the EU. We visited a very small rural school for the S mi people, who are descended from nomadic reindeer herders. Even today, the school closes down when the reindeer herds are gathered and marked for identification.

We stayed in a local fishing hut with outside temperatures of minus 30 degrees Celsius. We rode on Skidoos over the fells looking for reindeer. We drilled holes in the ice-covered lakes and fished for local carp. We ate the local food and tried the alcoholic beverages, as well as the cooked coffee.

We also experienced the wonderful phenomenon of the northern lights, and that was before we experienced the local version of liquid moonshine. We were showered with kindness and gifts.

You will not find a better form of professional development than these international education projects. This project has involved a great deal of work and commitment from everyone involved. But the benefits have more than compensated for the efforts involved.

Terry Williams is head of Litchard junior school, Bridgend

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