Ashgate Primary School, with support from the British Council and Derby Diocese, is linked with St Thomas’ School, Kolkata, India.
This link, established in Autumn Term 2015, has resulted in much collaborative work, including curriculum work in science, art, design and Religious Education. In addition, both Headteachers (Mr Seargent – Ashgate Primary School and Mr Debroy, St Thomas’) have completed reciprocal visits leading to:
Phase 2: Work with the Derby Diocese and British Council is already underway to include a further exchange programme for 2017 began on January 14th.
See below for updates of the exchange from Mr Seargent and Miss Donnelly.
Mr Seargent and Miss Donnely's Daily Kolkata link Blog -January 2017
Scroll down to view the pictures and text for each day of the visit. Visit the Video Stream clips by clicking the link on the home page.
January 20th - The last day at St Thomas'
To finish what has been an amazing and productive visit to Kolkata, the final day was spent reviewing what had been achieved with the Mr Debroy and further team teaching with Mr Seargent and the Junior School teachers. Teachers were keen to see how teachers at Ashgate adapt how and what they teach so that all children can be challenged and succeed, and plans were put in place to see the Kolkata team return to the UK, hopefully in September. One of the most delightful things to see today was the staffroom blackboard - which had a diagram explaining how Miss Donnelly had been teaching the children to write independently; it had been put on there by the Indian teachers, who had clearly been impressed with what they had seen and wanted to discuss this. This is huge step forward.
Miss Donnelly (Sweet Mam) had a very different day. As a part of the wider project and link, she spent the day visiting the Cathedral Relief Schools, many of which are in the slums of the city. This was an inspirational and emotional visit, with some hard hitting realities of the differences between our school and the most needy. Seeing the challenges faced by other children and teachers really brings home how lucky we are at Ashgate Primary School, and drives home the need to take advantage of everything we have. We are so lucky.
Tomorrow will be spent in Kolkata city centre and a visit to the bust Saturday markets to look for resources we can bring back to school to help teach RE. Buying in India is very different to the UK. There are rarely set prices and you must 'barter' (make a deal) with the seller. This means that you can spend a long time trying to buy an item and you are never sure if you got a good price for it. It can be fun and frustrating at the same time.
January 19th - Miss Donnelly gets her new name!
Today was warmer again in Kolkata. It is an 'odd' warm - whilst it is hot, it is also humid and feels sticky. This makes it a little uncomfortable, but baring in mind that it is winter in England, we had better not complain! The heat also makes the litter in the streets smell and as there are no bins on the streets there is a lot of litter. It can be unpleasant.
Today I spent time with the teachers of some of the poorer schools trying to help them build up some basic understanding of what things they can do to help children learn. In India, some schools ignore children who cannot understand and there are occasions when they are forgotten about or allowed to do nothing. This is not always true, but as many of the schools have no trained teachers, it is understandable that they do not know how to help all children. We also showed then some basic ideas of activities they can do to make learning fun - a lot of the teaching is simply copying from the blackboard, which means that the children have work in their books, but do not understand what they have done.
It has to be said that the teachers who came to the training were amazing! They joined in, worked hard, and we know from what we have seen in schools, that it is working.
Miss Donnelly has a new name, the 'Sweet Mam'. The children call her this as they have loved working with her and enjoy the way she teaches. They have learned so much from her, and today continued the literacy work they have been doing by story mapping. They have never done this before! Tomorrow they will be writing their versions of the story of the 'Three Little Pigs'. This will be a new experience as the writing they have done in the past has been copied from books or the board and not from their own mind. Many have not understood what they have written in the past, but now they will. This is a big step!
I want to say what an amazing job Miss Donnelly has done with these children. They have been transformed and the teachers have been very impressed with her work, as have I.
We hope all is good at Ashgate and that you are working hard for your teachers. We look forward to coming back to England on Monday and seeing and hearing about what you have been up to!
Hello to you all.
Another very productive day here in Kolkata and St Thomas' School.
The children were very relieved today to see Miss Donnelly, as they have been sitting some early morning exams. It was wonderful to see them working outdoors again as Miss Donnelly carried out some talk for writing activities around the 'Three Little Pigs'. Acting out the story and then retelling was very new to them, as was using arts and crafts to make puppets. Chatting to the children, it was clear they are well set for the up and coming planning and written work later in the week.
I enjoyed spending time with the children I taught last year as I met them in the secondary school. It was great to speak to them and see how they were doing. They recalled the science activities from my last visit and we talked about their next steps. As well as seeing the older children, I ran a workshop for the teachers in the afternoon. The differences in the way we teach are very big, and we discussed why we teach the way we do and why this is different in England to India.
Many of the teachers who have come over from England are very ill with upset tummies. The food and water here is very different and it is hard to stay well. We have been lucky so far, and are eating very sensibly to avoid being ill. Not everyone has been so lucky. It has been much hotter over the last two days and we are having to drink lots and lots to stay hydrated, although the local people can not understand why we think it is so hot.
I hope you are all good and well and working hard for your teachers. India is great, but we look forward to seeing you all when we return.
Tuesday Jan 17th
Today was a long day, so the blog was delayed a little. It has been much hotter today and very humid. What is the weather like in the U.K.?
As planned, Miss Donnelly worked with their class on a literacy activity, designed to get the children to learn in enjoyable ways. As you can see from the pictures I have added, the children very much enjoyed it, and are looking forward to tomorrow. She taught across three clssses and was extremely busy. We are lucky to have Miss Donnelly at our school, and I know that the Indian children would want her to stay. Don't worry, I will bring her back!
My day was spent working with schools across the link, including Mr Debroy. The training was a great success and we will find out on Thursday how the teachers used what they had learned. They were very engaged and we learned a lot from each other.
Hopefully tomorrow, I will be able to blog a little earlier so that you can see our continued work.
Monday January 16th (Evening)
Hello to you all! Great to see the picture of you all in assembly looking at the link page. Miss Donnelly will show the picture to the children at St Thomas's tomorrow.
It has been a great but very busy day. We got to meet all the children and spent time getting to know them. Miss Donnelly has a bear hunt lesson planned with her class tomorrow. A lot of the learning in class is spent sat in rows, copying from a blackboard, so we want the children to learn by role play and re telling the story.
Tomorrow I will be working with a group of teachers and headteachers, looking at how we teach in England and what we can learn from India. All very exciting.
The weather is hot in the afternoon but cooler in the morning and evenings. Did you see the picture of the child wearing a hat and gloves? The Indians think it is very cold and are wrapping up warn; for us it feels warm anyway. They think we are a little crazy wearing short sleeves when we turn up to work!
I am sure you are all working hard and behaving well. We will post more pictures each day if we can and write about what we have done. If you like, your teachers can arrange for you to respond, or maybe ask some questions. We will try to respond each day if you do.
Take care, work hard and LISTEN TO YOUR TEACHERS!
Day 3: 16th January
Today we started work at St Thomas' school. Miss Donnelly was introduced to her new class and began spending some time getting to know them. Mr Seargent re visited his old class and met many children he had worked with last year, and time working with the younger class' teacher on how to include all children in lessons. A meeting took place to give feedback on our observations and to plan the work for the rest of the week.
A great start to the school week.
Day 2: January 15th (Sunday)
Today was Sunday, and we were invited to the Cathedral of Kolkata for a service. Afterwards we visited the Victoria Memorial and Hindu Kali Temple.
Being a Sunday, the Victoria Memorial was busy with tourists and locals taking advantage of the vast green areas and beautiful structure. Miss Donnelly and others from the group were often stopped to have their photos taken with visitors. Clearly, westerners are a novelty in Kolkata and many of the people were keen to have their photos taken with us. I would be lying if I said Miss Donnelly enjoyed all the fuss!
The Kali Temple was crammed with Hindus waiting to worship inside what was vibrant and colourful Temple. Many jostled and pushed to get as close to the fire inside, where offerings were made to the Goddess of Destruction. It was very busy and a challenge to keep together as a group.
Finally, we had a visit to the Saint Mother Teresa house and tomb, before returning to the accommodation for evening meals.
Today was very enjoyable, with amazing sights to see. However, there are many children who are poor and living on the streets; begging is not uncommon and hard to face as visitors. Many have their homes on the side of the streets and live on the pavements.
Tomorrow we are off to St Thomas' School, our link school where we begin the work. Miss Donnelly will spend time with her class of infant children, whilst I work across the courtyard to support the Junior children and their studies. I can't wait.
With luck (and a good internet connection), I hope to have uploaded the pictures in time for assembly for all of our children to see.
Day 1: January 14th - Saturday
After a long trip (14 hrs), we landed in Kolkata, tired but excited. The traffic was crazy on the bus into the city, horn blowing by noisy, but friendly drivers; clearly a favourite driving style.
The noises and and smells are intense, a mixture of sweet fruit, charcoal fires burning on the side streets and fumes from cars and highly decorated buses.
It was great to be met by Mr Debroy, our link headteacher from St Thomas' Day School and other local Headteacher's. Being a Saturday, the school was closed, but we look forward to our official start on Monday.
After a brief lunch (oddly being a 'Chinese meal') we took a ride out to the Jain Temple, deeper into the city. A beautiful building with very friendly people. The trip back was noisy, bumpy and thrilling, owing to the sights, sounds and the frantic driving of the city residents.
Tomorrow will see a visit the the Kolkata Doicese Team at the Cathedral, where we will be officially welcomed, and to finalise the plans for the week. This will be followed by a visit to the Victoria Mamorial and hopefully, a trip into the city to see the Hindu god statues being made. Keep an eye of for the pictures and videos.
The first pictures of the trip are attached below. Visit the school Video Stream on the home page to see some clips of a crazy drive in the city, including clips of the tut tut taxis and street sellers.