Polish Visit to Summerhill January 2015
Over the last week we have had five teachers visiting Summerhill from Spoleczna Szkola Podstawowa STO w Ciechanowie as part of an Erasmus Mobility project from the British Council.
One of our Governors Mrs Kath Coyle submitted a bid to be part of this project which would allow the exchange of staff between the two schools.
Our visitors were extremely impressed with so much of the work at Summerhill that they talked together intensely every moment they got about policies, practices and teaching methods that they observed and would like to take back to implement in their own schools. Our schools and cultures are very different but with the same values at heart which have children at the centre.
They were very, very impressed with our children’s behaviour and the calmness and warmth they felt throughout the school. They understood that we work hard to achieve this but the fact that our children were obviously so happy at school left a marked impression on them that they spoke about often.
The governors and I would like to thank all our staff for the welcome they gave to our guests and for the continued socialising and time out in the evenings and weekend that they offered to ensure the visit went really smoothly. A huge thanks to Mrs Johnson who looked after all the organisation and administration of both trips to ensure an effective and efficient use of the funding given to both schools.
Thank you to all staff who worked so hard to ensure their lessons gave the visitors a real insight into our curriculum and the breadth and depth of learning that takes place.
SUMMERHILL PIP (PARTNER IN POLAND) PROJECT – The Story So Far!
In January 2014 Mrs Nelson and I worked on an Erasmus+ Key Action 1 Bid to develop the Summerhill PIP Project.
What is Erasmus+?
Erasmus+ is the European Union Programme which provides funding for education, training, youth and sport. Europe must equip its citizens with the education, skills and creativity that they need in a knowledge society. The world is changing fast, and education systems need to modernize and adapt to new ways of teaching and learning and embrace the new opportunities that exist. Education, training and non-formal youth learning are key to creating jobs and improving Europe’s competitiveness. that’s why Erasmus+ will make a key contribution to addressing these challenges.
The programme supports organisations to work with peers in other countries to innate and modernize teaching practice. Together they will help ensure that young people and adults get the skills they need to succeed in today’s world.
Our bid was submitted in February 2014 and we were delighted to find in July that ours was one of only 17% of successful bids!
The PIP project , which links us with Spoleczna Szkola Podstawowa STO in Poland, is designed to bring new ideas into Summerhill, to re-energise staff and to develop everyone’s cultural awareness. The combination of our recent successful Ofsted inspection and the introduction of the New National Curriculum gave us the impetus to look beyond the known and trusted and seek new ways to build on our successes and to modernize and internationalise our curriculum.
Through the project we aim to fulfill many of the aspirations on the School Development Plan. Specifically, through the project we want to: develop our community links; introduce new and innovative teaching methods; develop pupils as independent learners; promote staff well-being and develop capacity for modern foreign language teaching and learning.
Thirteen staff - teachers, support staff, and school leaders -will be directly involved in two or three visits to our partner school, but more staff will be involved in the preparatory activities, and all members of staff and children will benefit from the impact of the project and be involved in the reciprocal visits which our partner school has planned in a mirrored application. Participating staff had to formally apply to take part and were selected on the basis of the strength of their applications.
The PIP Project began in September 2014 by developing links with the Polish school through E-Twinning and e-mail. Staff and pupils began to get to know each other and the project leaders at each schools planned the mobilities (ie international visits) via the internet, ensuring that we understand each other’s aims and can contribute to each other’s success.
Our first visit – or ‘mobility’ as Erasmus+ call it – was a 5-day visit in November 2014. Mrs Nelson, Mrs Johnson, Mrs Rannard, Mrs Padilla, Mrs Roscoe and myself flew to Warsaw and had a fast and furious sight seeing and fact finding tour before going on to Ciechanow to meet with our partner school.
Ciechanow is a town with 40,000 inhabitants about 2hrs NW of Warsaw. The school was only established in 1990 as part of the new freedoms brought about after the overthrow of Communism in 1989. The classes are small: from 16 to 22 students in each class, making it easier for the Polish school to personalise education for the children. The age range is from 5 – 16yrs.
In our first mobility we were involved in teaching assignments, taking with us innovative teaching practices, ideas and resources and sharing these with staff and pupils there. We also spent some time job shadowing and/or observing our counterparts in selected activities. We of course spent time learning about the Polish Education system and Polish culture, and enjoyed trying out traditional Polish cuisine and learning some Polish language!
Our new Polish friends came to England in January 2015 and spent a week in school with us. We treated them to our finest English hospitality, introduced them to fish and chips, The Beatles Museum and Conway Castle, and even treated them to a belated traditional English Christmas dinner! But most of their time was spent in school, where the same sharing of innovative teaching practices, ideas and resources took place.
Two further mobilities are planned for November 2015 (England to Poland) and January 2015 (Poland to England), and we are also considering a further, smaller trip to a school in the north of Poland to explore different types of schools in Poland.
We envisaged at the outset that the project would bring innumerable benefits both to staff and to the school as a whole. These would include enhanced knowledge and understanding of another European culture, language and educational system; knowledge of and ability to use new and innovative teaching methods and management approaches; and a highly motivated, more skilled, confident and reflective workforce. We believe that many of these benefits are already being felt.
The PIP project, along with other Summerhill initiatives, will result in the school in the long-term being able to boast a modernized and internationalized curriculum and workforce as well as a community with a robust understanding of cultural and linguistic diversity. The project will contribute substantially to the school’s aim to raise the achievement of pupils so that all achieve their full potential.
By Kath Coyle (Vice-Chair of Governors)