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Conference lights Cumbria’s beacon of global citizenship

Pupil Leadership workshop Copyright Cumbria Development Education Centre

[A]dvocates of global citizenship from around Cumbria came together last Monday to celebrate and extend global learning in Cumbria’s schools (5 March). And a fantastic and productive day was had by both the teachers and school children.

Organised by CDEC and Armathawaite School, the day was held at Rheged, where over 50 teachers from 35 schools and over 40 children from 13 of the region’s primary schools got together to share best practice and learn new skill and approaches to global learning.

Storyteller and global educator Alia Alzoubi from HEC Global Learning Centre in London launched the day for both the adults and the children with an insightful story on sharing and trusting before leading the children off for their unique workshop with her.

The teachers’ key note for the day was set by Alison Hooper, head at Egerton Primary School in Cheshire. She inspired her audience with the work she has done in her school and region to build global learning and citizenship into the ethos of both her primary school and the wider community. She explained global learning as her ‘Golden thread’ that intertwines and binds the curriculum and holds so many aspects of school life together. It is with this that she has successfully given her children a voice and the confidence to try to understand and question the complex world in which we all now live.

Cockermouth LGBT+ student group lead a workshop on equality, diversity and inclusion

Understanding the complexity of who we are is also vitally important to Cockermouth School’s LGBT+ group who joined us with their teacher Mat Richards. The sixth formers led a workshop for delegates on understanding sexuality and the issues that come with questioning this. Sheffield-based Clive Belgeonne also explored gender with delegates, and helped them to challenge our preconceived notions of what it means to be a male or female by looking at Goal 5 of the UN Sustainable Development Goals – Gender Equality.

Through the day, the children all attended sessions with Carlisle Fairtrade Network, the team from Classrooms in the Forest from Whinlatter Forest, and actor Peter MacQueen. Peter put the pupils into the situation of the opening story and then facilitated their acting out and make decisions on the situation to help them build empathy, understanding and the ability to question and challenge.

The highlight for many was the exhibitions that the school children had brought with them. From Seascale Primary School’s explorations of Chinese culture to Natland Primary School’s campaign to rid Kendal of plastic, to displays on Fairtrade, composting and global learning in their schools, the children were able to have a look at each other’s displays and the teacher delegates were also given time to explore them and talk to the children about their projects.

At the conclusion of the day, Alison, Mat and Clive sat on the global learning panel along with Rachel Ingrams of Silloth Primary School, Graham Frost of Robert Ferguson School in Carlisle chaired by CDEC’s director Laura Gaud. Amongst the issues raised here was the homogenous nature of Cumbria and the lack of diversity.

Mat of Cockermouth School reflected on a partnership his school has with an inner-city secondary school in Birmingham which has students of a different background to his school but is equally homogenous – by building partnerships, making visits and sharing life and experiences, both schools and communities have benefited.  Graham Frost implored us to ‘Look for more opportunities to be interconnected. We must help our young people want to be around people of different backgrounds and with different experiences of life’, like the example Cockermouth School is working on.

Alison Hooper implored the teachers of Cumbria to ‘Look at your own school and celebrate the communities within it. Leadership needs to spot this and have an open mind and an open heart’.

So what’s the point? As Rachel Ingrims clearly put it, global learning is ‘about having the skills to be broadminded, empathetic and tolerant members of society’ wherever you may live.’

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