A week or so ago, I had the pleasure of being able to present an award to a Hartlepool school showing its global perspective and embracing its international credentials.
The world is a big place. Children going through school at the moment will succeed in modern economy and society by being receptive to different ideas and by appreciating, understanding and tolerating different cultures. That doesn’t mean neglecting our own history and culture; far from it. I think that everybody should properly study the history of our country, because if people did that, they would be less receptive to sinister and negative misinterpretations of Britain, our values and our traditions. I’m very proud of being patriotic; being proud of where I live and where I come from doesn’t mean a hostility and prejudice against other nations.
The British Council set up the International School Award in 1999 to recognise schools which provide a global dimension to what they do in the classroom. This celebrates a wide variety of activities, whether it is projects between schools in different countries, exchange visits and connecting with other schools through Skype and videoconferencing. All of this is designed to show young people that they are global citizens and that by increasing international skills, experience and connections, they will be equipped to thrive in the modern world, as well as understanding properly many vital global issues, like the refugee crisis, international poverty and the role of women in cultures around the world, and hopefully be engaged as citizens in the future. Understanding is key to tolerance and solving problems. I’ve never known ignorance to be a positive virtue, as it leads to prejudice and stupid and ignorant decisions.
Throston Primary School is a beacon of light in this regard. Throston earned the prestigious British Council International School Award for outstanding development of the international dimension in what the school teaches in the classroom. The British Council told me that the way in which Throston School integrated teaching global awareness and cultural understanding throughout the academic year has been “exceptional”. I was really proud to be able to present the school with the award at an event in Newcastle, with schools coming from as far afield as Hull and Grimsby.
Six pupils from Throston were able to go on a week-long visit to Great Mercy School, in Kitale, Kenya, last July. Whilst they were there, the pupils were able to take in educational visits, including seeing hippos. They learned how to speak Swahili and were taught how pupils had to grow crops and fetch water. They also told me how they walked with monkeys on their journey.
The pupils from Throston had an amazing experience in their trip to Kenya. From speaking with students at the awards ceremony in Newcastle, they were superb and mature ambassadors not just for the school, but for the entire town. They were an absolute credit to their parents and teachers, given the maturity they showed at the awards ceremony. I think they will remember their visit to Africa for the rest of their lives, and show an interest, appreciation and tolerance for foreign cultures as a result. In so doing, they have done Hartlepool proud and set themselves on the path to be great global citizens.