St Colman’s Primary School in Annaclone may only be home to 200 pupils, but they’ve got their eyes on the world.
The school’s aiming to gain a more international outlook, having recently secured funding through Erasmus+, A European funding programme managed by the British Council and Ecorys UK, which enables them to partner with seven other schools across Europe — Norway, Turkey, France, Bulgaria, Italy, Latvia and Romania.
The two-year project, entitled Bridging the Generations, aims to help bring families together though play – with children learning traditional games from grandparents, and then teaching their elders about the digital world.
To celebrate, the school recently held a European Day of Languages were each class adopted one of the countries, dressed up, and learned about their culture, language, games and customs. This included everything from Bulgarian fire walking, to taste-testing French cuisine and learning Norwegian.
Speaking about the project was Vice Principal Kevin O’Neill.
He said: “In this era of digital literacy, there’s a greater need for technology in the classroom, but this has resulted in a loss of traditional games passed down through the generations. Likewise, the older generation aren’t so comfortable with this new technology. Through this programme we hope to all learn from each other as well as bring our own communities together.
“The project will help our teachers in insurmountable ways – with budgets being cut for professional development opportunities, this is one of the few ways we can help to develop and improve. All our teachers will also have a chance to visit one of the other countries, which is a nice reward in some ways, for working so hard on the project.
“But the people that benefit the most are the children. It’s not only a fun way for them to start the year, but it’s also vital, especially with the recent cuts, for them to see the importance of language, want to be part of a European society and realise it has a place in their future.”
Through the project a DVD and e-book will eventually be produced, along with the development of a HD project. But for St Colman’s the biggest event will take place in 2017.
Mr O’Neill said: “In 2017 our small school will host the other seven schools, and for a small place like Annaclone, you can imagine how special that will be. It will be really exciting to bring all four corners of Europe to our small village and we look forward to hosting them.”
St Colman’s found its partner schools through British Council’s partner finding programme, eTwinning.
About the process, Mr O’Neill said: “As a school with no previous European partners we found eTwinning really simple. Within an hour of joining we received an influx of offers and are really happy with our partners – they are all lovely schools and we look forward to learning from them. Educationally Norway for example, is really futuristic, while in Bulgaria they focus on a more traditional type of learning, which is fascinating.”
Also speaking about the programme was Jonathan Stewart, Deputy Director, British Council Northern Ireland, he said: “'It is encouraging to see schools such as St Colman’s benefitting from Erasmus+ funding and we are hopeful when the new funding calls are opened in the autumn that even more schools will be able to participate and develop new partnerships and opportunities across Europe.
"Erasmus+ provides many opportunities for Northern Ireland schools to work internationally, which can enhance professional development of staff as well as broaden horizons of pupils. This international outlook can only add value to both those directly involved in the school but also the wider community."
Schools looking to apply to Erasmus+ will find a range of online tools to support them through the process such as the School Education Gateway portal (http://www.schooleducationgateway.eu/), which is a partner and opportunities finding tool, and eTwinning (www.britishcouncil.org/etwinning), where you can start, grow or extend your partnership or Erasmus+ project.
There’s a whole world of opportunities for schools within Erasmus+.
Funding for Erasmus+ funding should open in November 2015. Keep up to date on www.erasmusplus.org.uk, nireland.britishcouncil.org , on Twitter and Facebook. For more information on eTwinning visit www.britishcouncil.org/etwinning.