Report of SCIPD visit to Brussels
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Final Report – Grant Fraser SCIPD visit to Brussels, March 2008 Background In March 2008, I took part in a visit to Brussels organised by SCIPD and LTS to gain greater awareness of the European Union, its institutions and the kind of pan-European opportunities which are available to both educators and our pupils. It was an extremely interesting and informative visit which allowed me to gain a greater insight into the kind of role the EU actors can play within the sphere of education and it also heightened my awareness of the various EU institutions and the kind of influence Scotland has, both as part of the UK delegation and as a nation acting in its own interest. As part of the visit, we were received by Scotland Europa (the Scottish Government’s delegation to the European Union), Schoolnet and the European Parliament, in which we spoke to Ian Hudghton MEP (SNP), Struan Stevenson MEP (Conservative) and David Martin MEP (Labour). We were also invited into a committee chamber to watch a committee session on aquaculture which was co-chaired by Elspeth Atwooll MEP (Lib Dem), in which the Spanish chair halted proceedings for a moment to welcome us all personally. As a modern languages teacher, this was one of my personal highlights as I was able to watch the interpreters at work, and see for myself how, without language graduates, the whole European Union would cease to function smoothly. Another highlight was seeing the collegiality among the various Scottish MEPs. Although they have very different views on many things, and sit in different parliamentary groupings, they are still able to work together as a team to defend and promote Scotland’s interests whenever necessary. Impact on personal CPD International education and the European context have long been areas of interest for me, so it has been extremely beneficial to me on a personal and professional level to further my own understanding of European programmes and initiatives and to find ways of incorporating these programmes and themes into the classroom. The session on writing Comenius applications was particularly useful as it provided clear advice and tips on how to approach the application process for Comenius, by people who actually vet the applications and award the funding. It has given me a much clearer understanding of the application procedure, of the kinds of partnerships which are most likely to attract funding and this knowledge can only be beneficial to myself and to the school in general in the event that we should decide to make a Comenius schools application in the future. The schoolsnet session was also very interesting as it provided us with information on European competitions and projects which I was not aware of, and which could easily be incorporated into different parts of the curriculum. Indeed, the European Development Youth prize ties in neatly with a cross-curricular project we are working on to do with fairtrade and francophone Africa. Also awareness has been raised about the particular problems of Africa by some of our pupils having been on a trip to Tanzania in summer 2008 as well as those who have taken part in Model United Nations conferences and debated and tried to seek answers to some of the problems faced by Africa. Whole-school / Authority Impact On a whole-school level, this trip has been beneficial as it has provided greater awareness of programmes and funding available to the school to supplement and enhance the good practice already going on. Staff within the school are also more aware of international CPD opportunities provided by LTS, SCIPD, Comenius and other actors through better communication of these kinds of opportunities. On a departmental level in Modern Languages, it has given us the impetus to deepen our eTwinning projects with our partner school in France across S1 to S4, which may eventually lead to pupil exchanges and/or building on the existing links to engage in a Comenius project by bringing other partners on board. It is also my intention to re-engage with our existing eTwinning link with a school in Spain with next year’s new S3 beginners Spanish class. At local authority level, the session on Comenius applications was particularly useful as, following my participation in this trip, my attendance at a briefing on the new Comenius Regio programme and follow-up discussions with the international education quality improvement officer, Perth & Kinross is looking to apply for funding for a Regio project for 2009-11, which will most likely build on exisiting twin-town links with Bydgoszcz in Poland. Added-value for pupils It is hoped that pupils will continue to see the benefits of participation in projects such as these, that they will gain a greater understanding of what it is to be a citizen of Europe and that they will be keen to take opportunities for themselves to discover other countries, cultures and languages. Expanding our links with our eTwinning partner in Rambouillet has been a big success with many classes from S1 to S4 exchanging letters and thus deepening person to person exchanges. They are also involved in using a shared blog at http://www.perthrambouillet.blogspot.com where some class projects are done, such as a recent one where classes in both Perth and Rambouillet looked at stereotypes about each other’s country. They have the opportunity to use their language skills, ask questions about life in the partner country and have these questions answered by people their own age, instead of by their teachers. Our pupils, and those in Rambouillet, have found this project particularly motivating, and we certainly hope to be able to build on these links to improve pupils’ experiences. Participation in projects such as Spring Day, Futurenergia and the Development Youth Prize over the coming year will also help to expand European opportunities for our pupils and hopefully help embed the notion of celebrating diversity and difference, while at the same time acknowledging a shared European identity and the importance of understanding and knowing about our neighbouring countries. As we move into the period of the year in which our young people are beginning to choose their courses for next year, given that curriculum flexibility will make study of a language optional in our school for the first time in some twenty years, we are confident that such experiences will help pupils realise that study of a European language is important and that numbers choosing languages will be buoyant, particularly as we are in the strong position of being able to offer French, German, Spanish, Italian and Gaelic at various levels. European values and international opportunities are important to us as a school and I firmly believe that our pupils will continue to gain added-value from the various projects undertaken and opportunities available to them. Dissemination Following this visit, I have strived to improve communication to staff about international CPD opportunities and increase awareness of projects which may be of interest to other departments. For example, Futurenergia certainly appeals to pupils doing chemistry and physics and also to those doing technology subjects. Xperimania and Xplora can be used by the science departments and Spring Day could be an excellent collaboration between languages and modern studies. Indeed, much of the information and many of the online tools are ideal for use in the modern studies classroom. The art department has a strong international focus and was very interested in the development youth prize and are looking to possibly get on board this year. I have spoken to staff about some of these opportunities on an informal level and continue to pass on any relevant new information I get from LTS as regards courses and projects. I am also the lead contact person in the school when it comes to international education and international projects and opportunities. Following discussions with the QIO, it is planned that an authority level international education working group will be set up during 2009 to help the authority take forward its international education plan. This will help to promote dissemination of these kinds of opportunities and projects, not just within one school, but across the whole authority, allowing more of our young people to access and participate in the many opportunities available to them. Conclusion This study trip has allowed me to develop and improve my own understanding of European projects and opportunities for our pupils. It has allowed me to see the active role that the European Union can play in supporting education across the member states, and that it is up to us to harness these excellent opportunities for our pupils. It has been my pleasure to share these opportunities and projects with colleagues in order that pupils right across the school, whether sitting in a French classroom or a chemistry classroom might benefit from the added-value that the European dimension can bring to their education. It has also helped underline the message that language teachers continually try to get over to their pupils and that is that in the European Union, where you can live, study and work freely in any member state, we need to actively learn other languages in order to take advantage of the opportunities available to us. If our young people do not take these opportunities, and everyone else does, we just fall further and further behind. Especially in today’s global employment marketplace, our young people need a good knowledge of another language, not to stand out from the crowd, but to be on a level-footing with bi-, tri- and multi-lingual candidates from other member states.