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There's more time to play in Bolton

PAKISTAN

SLS Harley Street is much like any other private school in Pakistan, with a guard standing outside the high fence and gates. But it is one of a select few that has built close links with UK schools through programmes involving the British Council in Islamabad.

The one-storey building plus small courtyard in Lalazar, Rawalpindi, is home to more than 400 pupils aged five to 16, one of six sites covering 4,000 pupils. Its walls are covered in students' drawings and project work.

Iram Nayyer, the school links co-ordinator, says contact was made with St Peter's Smithills Dean school, Bolton, in 2003. They began a project involving pupils hosting a fictional cartoon character as their guest. A placard of "Flat Stanley" was taken by eight-year-olds around the school and to different locations in Rawalpindi.

The children wrote journals and postcards, took photographs and collected souvenirs. These were then exchanged with journals and souvenirs from pupils at St Peter's school.

Hira, 10, recalls, in almost perfect English: "Their hobbies and ours are the same, but their school is a lot different. Over here you have to wear a uniform whereas they have just a dress code. We learned what they eat, hamburgers and different stuff."

Mehroush, her classmate, added: "They like to play a lot of different games. But we don't have that much fun because we have to study a lot."

A statistics project carried out with Frederick Gough school in Scunthorpe, Lincolnshire, involved both schools recording a weather diary for their city over 12 months.

Rida, 12, said: "In the UK they hardly have summers, but they have extreme winters, whereas we have extremes in both seasons."

In a two-year environment project with Kirklees school in Meltham, Huddersfield, pupils explored life in their respective towns, using photographs.

The Kirklees pupils impressed their peers with their politeness and their drawings symbolising friendship. But the Pakistani children were were shocked by the standard of their writing, including their spelling and grammar.

"Their writing was really bad and they have done a lot of spelling mistakes," said Samine, 12. "We wrote to them asking them to compare our writing."

Asiya Talha, the school's managing director, said when she studied in London's West End in 1992 her English friends were surprised to learn that Pakistanis often lived in well-built houses rather than mud huts. Since then she had supported linking as a way to tackle ignorance.

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