A Comenius Project is an international collaboration between a number of schools across Europe. Each project is heavily sponsored by the British Council and has a key theme which encourages discussion between participating countries. The themes are widely varying; but all develop skills and an appreciation of the diversity of cultures within Europe in the youngsters who are involved.
New connections and lasting friendships are made between British students and their counterparts in other countries.
Firstly, students have the opportunity to travel to foreign countries and stay, in most cases, with a host family. These visits allow students to experience a sometimes very contrasting culture and see, first hand, how the education systems work in their host country.
The visits are usually of four to six day duration; the cost of the visit is heavily subsidised and the Academy asks only for a voluntary contribution of around £40-£50.
Whilst in the host country, students produce a product, whether this be a newspaper or video production. Sometimes they may be involved in a charity party or fundraising venture; the aim is that they support others through their work and publicise the value of diversity. There is a lot of hard work, but also a number of cultural experiences and visits during the educational trip.
Whilst in the UK, students participate online and contribute to the overall project by collaborating with their European counterparts. In general, they also host a visitor when it is our turn to welcome our friends from the continent.
We have a partnership between ourselves and a school in Lebanon. Our students, especially Year 7, are currently working on a number of mini-projects with the students in Lebanon.
The aims are that students understand more thoroughly what life is like for young people in another, very contrasting country. They also put their language skills into practice by conversing with the foreign students.
The project was supplemented by our Lebanese Day: each subject brought life to our school link through a themed day. Students baked Lebanese biscuits, took inspiration from Lebanese art, wrote accounts of a Lebanese child’s day, played a typical Lebanese game in PE and wrote postcards in French to introduce themselves to their pen pal.
This is one example of a number of links we have had with foreign schools over time. Previous schools have been in China, Italy and, in the future Finland.
This is organised annually by the British Council; a delegation of sixth form students, usually linguists or those interested in politics, attend and take the role of a foreign minister for one of the European countries. For example, our students have represented Portugal in the past. Following time to prepare their case, which usually requires an extensive amount of research into their allocated country, students debate two current topics. Previous examples have included air quality and youth unemployment.
The delegation are supported by the debating club and the language department before they attend; part of their presentation has to be conducted in a modern foreign language.
Last time we took part in the debate, our students were supported by Nick Clegg and other very prominent European politicians to prepare their case.