Jan Trebilcock finds out how pupils in a small Scottish town are benefiting from a link with a school in Lahore, Pakistan
One Chinese and two Indian takeaways are about it when it comes to cultural diversity in the small rural town of Keith in North-east Scotland, says Cathy Francis, head of St Thomas Roman Catholic School.
"That's one reason why our international linking project with Pakistan is so wonderful. It excites the pupils, widens their horizons, and gives them experience of children's lives in other parts of the world.
"It's a fantastic way to tackle stereotypes, racism and bullying. And it's not something we've just added to the curriculum, we use it as a vehicle for teaching everything from English and science, to technology and even PE."
St Thomas linked with the fee-paying Lahore Lyceum, in northern Pakistan, almost three years ago, and the two schools have worked on joint projects including swapping favourite playground games, comparing national heroes, and looking at the UN Rights of the Child, by email and post.
"It's exciting for children to receive work from halfway around the globe,"
says Cathy. "We have exchanged adventure stories, poetry and art projects exploring our different religions and ways of life. Children on both sides of the link learn a lot from each other."
It has even spilled into maths lessons. Children produced a database of the answers from a questionnaire comparing things such as how children get to school and their favourite foods and pop stars.
"We now have a clock in the classroom set to Pakistani time," says Cathy.
"Several children who had no interest in learning to tell the time have suddenly become fascinated."
"Pakistan is on the topic planner and our nine to 12-year-olds study the country and its people in depth. Being able to contact their friends in Lahore makes the project vibrant and real for the children," says Cathy.
Thanks to funding from the Department for International Development, Cathy and Farhat Junaid, her counterpart in Lahore, have enjoyed two-week reciprocal visits, spending time in school and visiting the local area.
"The visit and the linking project has affected my teaching profoundly", says Cathy. "The children feel they are part of a global population."
Setting up the partnership was easy, she says. "I just registered on the Department for Education and Skills' Global Gateway site and waited for schools to contact me."
To find a partner school visit the DfES Global Gateway at www.globalgateway.org
For more information: www.britishcouncil.orgglobalschools