Reach out to Europe

30th September 2005 at 01:00
Getting pupils fired up over the EU isn't easy, but it can be done with a little imagination, the right resources - and a passport, writes Stephen Hastings

Arrange a school visit from an mep

1 It's not as hard as you might think. The first step is a phone call or letter, and since more than one MEP represents your region, you can increase your chance of success by approaching several of them at the same time.

Not surprisingly, MEPs spend a lot of time abroad, so you'll have to be flexible about dates. Hansard produces a free resource pack to help you get the most from a visit, complete with ideas for lead-up work and a suggested timetable for the day itself.

"The days of an MEP just turning up and giving a speech are over," says Hansard's Michael Raftery. "Our pack allows schools to make the visit an interactive, student-driven experience."


Take a trip to Brussels

2 The European Parliament organises school visits for children over 14. You can fix it up yourself through the Visitor Service in Brussels, but it's better to go through your MEP's office, not least because they may have funding for sponsored visits, where part or all your travel costs are paid for.

Once in Brussels, the visit itself is free. You'll need to book two to three months in advance and groups are limited to 45. There is an introductory talk, a tour, and a chance to meet MEPs or see live debates from the visitors' gallery.

Head for London

3 If Eurostar is beyond your budget, you could always visit the UK Office of the European Parliament in London. Hundreds of schools visit the Houses of Parliament each year, but only a few of them add a European dimension by popping down the road for the informative half-hour presentation. Phone in advance, as the number of presentations is limited.

Call: The UK Office of the European Parliament on 020 7227 4300

Go multilingual in Strasbourg

4 The European Parliament runs Euroscola days in Strasbourg, bringing together pupils from across the EU to debate topical issues.

Students divide into mixed-nation working groups, before everyone assembles in the chamber to deliver presentations.

Most Euroscola days are for 16- to 18-year-olds, but a few are set aside for 14- to 16-year-olds. Participants must have a smattering of an EU language other than their mother tongue.

The event is subsidised - so the costs shouldn't be too off-putting.


Get competitive

5 Essay competitions don't always get pupils jumping up and down - but the prospect of an all expenses-paid trip to Brussels should spark some enthusiasm. What Has the EU Ever Done for Me? is the title and the winners get a three-day trip to Brussels in December to report on the Blair-chaired EU summit. It's a rare chance for students to travel with the Press, interview UK ministers and have their reports broadcast or published in the UK media.


Bring in business

6 One way of making the EU relevant to young people is to link it to their future study or employment prospects. Try arranging a visit from a representative of a local business with a European connection.

"Young people need to understand that Europe is for real and that the EU offers exciting work opportunities," says Jonathan Stewart of the British Council, which is organising "Opportunity Europe" in Belfast, October 3-4, to highlight the potential of the European Union's job market.

Dish out the goodies

7 The UK Office of the European Parliament has cupboards bursting with giveaways - from EU bookmarks dotted with pretty flags, to EU rulers and laminated maps. All you need to do is write to the office and you'll receive a pack of freebies.

Write to: Christine Burton, UK Office of the European Parliament, 2 Queen Anne's Gate, London SW1H 9AA.

language assistants

8 French assistants are already popular. Why not bring home the reality of EU enlargement by employing a trainee teacher from Eastern Europe? The British Council advises schools on suitable candidates and possible funding.

Call: Paul Burrows at the British Council on 02890 248220

Organise a debate

9 A debate is still the best way to rouse political passions, especially if you encourage children to represent different EU nations. Allow time for research. Human rights and animal testing are two areas where the EU is deeply involved, and both have instinctive appeal to teenagers. The good old Euro is guaranteed to stir up a bit of interest.

spring day is in the air

10 On March 21 2006 join over 6,000 schools across Europe for Spring Day, which celebrates the EU through debates, e-linking and video conferencing.

Participating schools are encouraged to incorporate EU developments into the curriculum in the preceding weeks.

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