In June 2015, I experienced one of the proudest moments in my career. Almost all of our school staff, as well as governors and parents, made our way to London for a special occasion that we had never imagined we would be part of: the 2015 TES Schools Awards.
Our school had been nominated for the international award, and we felt very honoured to be able to share an event with school leaders, teachers and inspirational figures from across the UK, all of whom had their own stories of remarkable achievements. It was very special.
We did not think we could be winners and when our school’s name was announced there was an electric wave of celebration. Everybody joined together in a moment of pure joy that we will never forget. The fact that so many of us were together, representing so many schools and so many children, made the award so exceptional, for everyone.
International work is part of the fabric of what we do. It’s important to us that our children feel connected to the wider world and that they feel empowered with the confidence and ability to make a difference to their society – whether that is within their local community, across the UK or the wider world. We want our pupils to want to make a difference. We have worked in partnership with schools in Kenya, South Africa and Sweden, seeking out opportunities to connect the curriculum and school life in order to spark creativity, critical thinking and genuine reflection.
These activities can be very simple, such as Skype calls during international events like World Book Day, sharing stories from local cultures, reciting songs and poems, or collaborative projects comparing food diaries, researching unfamiliar foods and analysing the nutritional value of each diet.
We have also sent teachers to Kenya to work on developing a tool to assess children’s rights in schools, and both children and staff devised images to try and promote the UN’s ‘Global Goals’.
The partnership was originally developed to help remove stereotypes, challenge assumptions and develop critical thinking skills in our pupils. We collectively agreed to focus on the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child as our main topic, and pupils have demonstrated not only a renewed energy from the interaction but also a wider understanding and improved attitudes.
As we reach nearly 10 years of partnership work and collaboration we have many things to be proud of – but the TES Awards 2015 has to go down as the absolute highlight in terms of celebrating what we do together.
Carl McCarthy, headteacher, Newlands Primary School, Hampshire
The deadline for entries for the TES Schools Awards 2016 close at midnight on Sunday 13 March 2016. For a full list of categories and to enter, visit the awards website.