Aim: To make students more aware of life in different parts of the UK and the world, and to develop a greater sense of interest in the world outside of school.
Background: Boys at the school did not empathise with people living in environments that were unfamiliar to them and wildly different to their lives in London. A number of students were so focused on doing well at school or getting into a good university that they did not develop an interest in the world around them – something of great importance to being a good geographer.
Year 1: Links were explored with other schools in contrasting contexts and several (in Ghana, Zimbabwe, Lesotho, Kenya and Tanzania, and also initially Tendring Technology College through the PTI) were contacted to explain the aims of the project and see if a lasting partnership would be feasible. Teachers at each school identified and shared opportunities for key global issues to be taught and for the perceptions of students to be analysed. Each term work was exchanged between schools and students compared their views to those in other countries. Pen-pal letters were exchanged and students in all of the schools joined extra-curricular clubs.
Year 2: By this stage it was clear that one school (in Ghana) was equally enthusiastic about the project; new projects were created and shared between the two schools, and a visit was arranged for a teacher from Ghana to visit Queen Elizabeth’s. Funding came through the British Council’s Connecting Classrooms programme. The talk he gave really opened pupils’ eyes to understanding arguments from other points of view. A Facebook group was set up for students to maintain links themselves, and pupils are in charge of updating a noticeboard with the latest work, photos and information from each school. An African-style theatre company also visited the school to demonstrate more about African culture.
Evidence: Student questionnaires, uptake at GCSE and A Level.
Impact: Results of student questionnaires showed that the projects and links had helped to develop a greater sense of interest in the rest of the world and an increased awareness of global issues. It also made them more likely to be active global citizens. They were inspired by the idea of a potential visit to Ghana and enthusiastic about developing further links; knowing their work was being shared with students in Ghana motivated them to produce a better quality of work and to enjoy it more.
The numbers studying GCSE and A Level Geography have both increased. Provisional GCSE numbers are 130 for 2015 (100 in 2014) and at A Level they have increased from 21, to 30, to 32 in the past 3 years.
Reflections: Challenges have been involving more schools in the links, and also enthusing and fully involving the whole department. It is hard to transfer your own passion to other staff members, and perhaps their involvement needs to be secured through target setting and performance review.
Contact: Guy Boyes, firstname.lastname@example.org