In 2012, I joined Armathwaite School on an exciting journey from being a first school to becoming a full primary. The following year, GLP Local Advisor, Beki Cosh, invited me to become an Expert Centre for the new Global Learning Programme (GLP). This entailed recruiting 23 partner schools and providing them with a programme of training and support over four school terms. With so many new things to contend with becoming a full primary school, I nearly resisted, but I’m glad my head teacher, Helen Hepworth, encouraged and supported me to become a Lead Practitioner for Global Learning (SSAT). It’s been life-changing.
Although we had been involved in many global learning projects with Cumbria Development Education Centre (CDEC), I wanted to make sure that global learning became embedded rather than on the fringes of our curriculum, particularly in maths and English. I also wanted to make sure that what I presented in the training had been tried and tested in our classrooms. A unique feature of our GLP training was that we included pupils as co-presenters and equal participants – you can read about this in my GLP case study.
In Sept 2013, after witnessing news reports of the deepening crisis in Syria, co-teacher, Helen Gill and I, embarked on a curriculum focus on the plight of refugees with our Year 4&5 pupils. It was challenging to provide learning experiences for pupils about something that was continually changing and that we were trying to make sense of ourselves. We immersed our pupils in drama, role play, critical thinking activities, Philosophy for Children (P4C) enquiries, news articles (First News was a great source), novels and statistics relating to poverty, education and healthcare in refugee camps. What we saw emerging, were some of the most powerful and empathetic speaking and writing from the pupils we had ever seen. We saw this in their speeches, poems, stories, letters, diaries, news reports, persuasive and discussion writing. But more than that, we saw the children beginning to move from a ‘charity mentality’ and really start to care about the plight of refugees and want to take action for social justice.
Teaching pupils about refugees provided the springboard for all our global learning around the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) from achieving the FairtradeActive status (twice), embarking on the UNICEF Rights Respecting School Award and being awarded the SAPERE P4C Gold Award. Teaching about refugees continues to be a defining feature across our whole school and we were proud to recently hit the local headlines on TV, radio and newspapers. We have experienced how local media can act as a powerful and positive vehicle for helping to change the narrative around refugees, working alongside volunteer groups such as Carlisle Refugee Action Group (CRAG).
Through immersing our pupils in global learning over the last four years, they have become more questioning of what is going on in the world and they’ve been more eager to be informed. But more importantly, we’ve seen it play out in their child-initiated independent learning activities at home and school, from awareness raising of global issues, contact with their local MP, to social activism projects for causes that are important to them.
When our four terms of being a GLP Expert Centre came to an end in 2015, we became a GLP Advocate School, continuing to support our partner schools, providing training events and activities for pupils. We are delighted that two of our partner schools were inspired to become Expert Centres and they are currently providing the final wave of Global Learning in North Cumbria. It’s also been a privilege for me to provide some 40 training sessions in Global Learning, P4C and English to Expert Centres and Development Centres in Cumbria, Lancashire, Cheshire and Worcestershire.
As well as support from my colleagues at school, I wouldn’t be at this point in my journey, if it hadn’t been for Heather Swainston from Cheshire Development Education Centre, who not only nominated me for this award, but has been a constant source of inspiration and encouragement over the last five years
By Jane Yates, Global Educator of the Year 2017 Award winner 2017