Saved by the buzzer - Euroquiz winners in electrifying finish

28th May 2010 at 01:00
When it comes to things European, P6s at a West Dunbartonshire school have all the right answers

Quiz question: name the presidents of the European Commission, the European Parliament and the European Council.

Stumped? Then it might be worth consulting St Mary's Primary in Duntocher, West Dunbartonshire, where P6 pupils are authorities on European affairs - and the names of Jose Manuel Barroso, Jerzy Buzek and Herman van Rompuy trip off the tongue.

A passion for all things continental has been fuelled at the school, on the fringes of Clydebank, by success in the national Euroquiz competition for P6s: St Mary's won this year and was runner-up in 2009, when there were international entrants and the winners came from Ireland.

Continental Europe often complains about the UK's antipathy to the EU, epitomised by media coverage that only seems to rail against standardised bananas or bemoan the dangers of Eurozone membership.

But Kathleen Ewing, 10, part of the winning team, has a more benign view. "It's a group of countries that decided to work together so no more wars broke out," she says.

Teammate Jason Carr, 10, concurs: "It's like a big family, because they're kind of helping each other."

Most of Scotland's MEPs have sent congratulatory messages to their kindred spirits at St Mary's. Conservative Struan Stevenson wrote an individual letter to each member of the team, and Labour's Catherine Stihler plans to visit the school.

Euroquiz, sponsored by Standard Life, comes at a good time for pupils, as P6 teacher Clare Donnelly explains: "They're at the age where they're interested in something different, and a lot of them have been on holiday in Europe, so that gives a starting point."

It has been "a cause of excitement all year", with classroom activities complemented by a popular after-school club dedicated to learning about Europe - flags, capitals, world leaders and anthems (how many people would recognise Beethoven's `Ode to Joy' as the EU anthem?).

They can also reel off landmark treaties and their purpose: Rome set the foundations of European union; Maastricht led to a single currency; Lisbon begat the European Council. They understand the strengths, great and relatively small, of a united Europe: that there have been no wars between member states; joining the European Community (as it was then known) in 1973 enabled the UK to sell its chocolate abroad.

The quiz, organised by the Scottish European Educational Trust and culminating in a final at the Scottish Parliament on May 10, attracted teams of four from more than 400 schools. St Mary's beat Drymen Primary, near Stirling, after a tense buzzer round, watched live online by schoolmates back in Duntocher.

Miss Donnelly believes the positive impact of immersion in Europe will last long after the victory buzz has faded. There is a unanimous verdict, she says, on the most exciting thing to have been discovered about Europe: its plethora of famous people. But this is no reflection of a prevailing celebrity culture. The "celebs" which Kathleen, Jason and their pals rave about are van Gogh, Leonardo, Monet and Michaelangelo.

henry.hepburn@tes.co.uk.

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