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:
See below for updates from Miss Donnelly and Mrs Patrick's 2018 visit to St Thomas' and our new second link school, Topsia.
Today was Republic Day which is a national holiday. It commemorates the day the Constitution for a newly independent India came into effect so people decorate everywhere with flags, play loud music, parade around the streets and gather together with their community to celebrate. Some groups, like the band in this photo I took late at night, moved around crammed into the back of a truck! Schools are closed too!
Instead, we went on a veeeery long bus ride to a rural area. On the way I spotted some kingfishers and some giant water monitor lizards from the bus! (Google them!) A school has been set up here recently and the children who attend it are the first generation in the village to ever go to school! I found out that because the adults have never had chance to learn to read or write, they have to sign their name with a thumbprint.
The school was a bit like Topsia except the room was larger and, instead of being in a noisy, smog-filled city, it was in a peaceful, green village. Because it was Republic Day, the children were in their fanciest clothes and some wore traditional costumes.
When we arrived, we were given a rose and flower petals were sprinkled over our heads! Then we watched a ceremony where the children and some other members of the village gathered to pray for the country and to hoist the flag. This job was given to Reverend Anita who you may have seen at Ashgate. As the flag lifted, lots of golden petals fell out of it! The ladies in the middle of this picture then sang for us.
After this, we were invited inside to watch the children perform dances and rhymes in English and Bengali.
Later we had the chance to walk around the little village. There was rice drying out on the ground, cows wandering free, washing drying on the straw roofs, woman washing clothes and cooking equipment in pools and children playing. We saw lots of the local people too.
Before beginning our veeery long bus journey back, we took a boat trip in the Bay of Bengal. This photo was taken from the boat. I spotted some river dolphins but they were too quick to catch on camera!
I did lots of writing to explain these photos but then my web browser crashed and I lost it all! So enjoy the photos for now and I'll rewrite it all tomorrow!
The streets near Topsia
Hello everyone! We're a little over half-way through the trip. Today has been very different to the others because we've been teaching the teachers.
The training took place at a large boys school (not a slum school). When we arrived, they were doing some kind of exercise routine! Do you think we should do it at Ashgate?
It was challenging since it's hard to explain things in another language. For longer explanations, we had very clever people who could translate between English and Bengali to help us. However, the rest of the time, we had to use actions and focus on the resources we were demonstrating with.
Here are some teachers using the number lines you raised money to buy. From tomorrow they will now know how to use it to teach maths to their children! Isn't that great?
Below you can see how the blackboards we bought each school have been used to help teach phonics:
The teachers were shown how to do actions to fit each sound, using the photographs of Miss Donnelly's class.
They were also taught how to use lots of other maths resources like numicon.
Both the Indian and the English teachers had a great time today as you can see from the pictures below. (In the second picture they are practising the 'o' sound and in the fourth, they're learning to mime eating an apple for the 'a' sound!)
At the end, they sung us a couple of songs to say 'thank you', led by these ladies:
Tomorrow we'll visit St Thomas' and then return to Topsia.
It's been another great day at Topsia! Guess how long it took us to get there? 2 whole hours! It's not far but there was such a lot of traffic! When we arrived, the children seemed delighted to see us and greeted us enthusiastically. I took a photo of Miss Donnelly going in so you can see the outside of the school.
We introduced a new story to the children today which you might know...Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? The children loved watching the video of Miss Donnelly's class telling them the story! It gave us chance to remind the children of some animal names and colours. Later on, we gave them the craft materials we had bought for them and they created collages of each animal from the story.
Then they recited the story (with a lot of help from Miss Donnelly whilst I filmed it to show you when we get back).
Something we're not used to at Ashgate is that, during the morning, the call to prayer is made from the mosque and this is a time when the teacher - Rabia - puts her scarf over her head out of respect and the children quieten down with whatever they're doing.
We practised the phase two sounds again, adding a few new ones. The children were keen to join in. We played dancing games with the sounds too.
I then worked with a small group of children teaching them how to write some simple cvc words. They were good at it although it's hard to get them to say the letter sounds rather than the letter names they've been taught before.
The little boy at the back of this picture is almost completely blind so did a particularly good job with his letters!
At the end of the day, we gave the remaining children a giant game mat and showed them how to pay Ludo.
It was great for me to Skype my class at the end of the day! Don't forget any class can email questions if they have any.
Here are a few more photos from today:
Tomorrow, we are going to spend the day teaching the teachers!
Today was a brilliant day because we finally got to do what we came here to do: teach! It was so much fun! Around 10am we arrived at a metal gate over a small doorway in a turquoise-painted building. Pulling aside the curtain over the gate, we stepped inside the little room.
It was not much bigger than the Respect room - much smaller than all the classrooms at Ashgate. The first thing we had to do was remove our shoes and add them to the big pile already by the doorway. About 50 children were squeezed into the room, sitting beautifully on mats on the floor! There were children as young as 2 or 3 and the oldest girl said she was 9. They were all so well-behaved even though they were squashed into such a small place together.
There was no furniture except for a few plastic chairs for the adults to sit on. A few pictures hung on the wall, teaching them English words for fruits and animals. That was it!
First the children sang us some songs and rhymes they knew in English, like I'm a Little Teapot. They have learnt these songs but don't really know what they mean and they can't speak many other English words. The main language they speak is Bengali. Their lovely teacher, Rabia, was there and we also had a translator named Lynda.
After this, we spent nearly 4 hours teaching them! They had no break time, no snacks, no outside space and, if they wanted to go to the toilet, they had to be taken outside - we're not sure where to. It reminded us just how lucky we are at Ashgate with our classroom equipment, our playgrounds and fields.
We taught them some phase 2 sounds for the first time which they were great at; we tried out the number line (remember Ashgate bought numberlines with pegs for all 16 schools); we sang some songs with actions; we played games combining flashcards and dancing; we read We're Going on a Bear Hunt and taught them the actions which they loved and we showed them a video of Mrs Patrick's class doing them too.
Gradually the children started to leave. When only about 10 were left, we gave them the books we bought them and they were so excited because they don't really have any.
We also let them eat our packed lunches because they come from very poor families.
Normally the youngest children attend school in the morning and the older ones come in the afternoon but, because we were visiting, they all came all day. As you can imagine, the little children were completely exhausted by the end of the school day. We were too but wcan't wait to go back tomorrow!
Although Hinduism is the main religion of India and there are a lot of Muslims, about 3% of the country is Christian. The charity we are working with is a Christian one and so our Sunday morning began with a visit to St Paul's Cathedral. It's a huge white stone building which opened in 1847 but was rebuilt in 1934 after an earthquake. Far bigger than St Barnabas church!
Inside were rows of dark brown wooden seats facing forwards and there were also carved pews on each side facing the centre of the room which featured painted shields to represent lots of cities in India. From the high ceiling, hung fans and lights. At the front of the church was a beautiful stained glass window showing scenes from the life of Jesus.
The service was two hours long and began with the choir walking down the aisle whilst singing. During the service, we had to join in with hymns and prayers and we listened to a special song performed by the choir and a sermon by the vicar. It was quite like being in a very traditional English church service except for two main differences: there were pigeons flapping around high up in the rafters and there was a pair of little squirrels chasing each other up and down one if the ropes used for opening the window!
Later in the day, we visited the Victoria Memorial - do you remember us showing you a picture of it in assembly? This photo is us with the group of teachers we are with:
In the evening, we enjoyed a very peaceful and relaxing boat ride along the Hooghly river (which eventually joins the Ganges).
Although we've had a great time so far, we're really looking forward to tomorrow as we are going to our new school - Topsia!
We're here! What a long journey! We flew 5000 miles on two aeroplanes to reach Kolkata, changing in Dubai. From door to door, it took us about 21 hours. The first plane was enormous and even had an upstairs!
This is the second plane.
When we landed, we had a very short rest at the hotel before heading straight out on a trip to visit a Jain Temple. Jainism is an ancient Indian religion and it's believers are usually vegetarian, are against violence, and believe 'the function of souls is to help one another'. Photos of the ornate, mosaiced inside weren't allowed but here is a picture of the outside and some flowers:
Outside the temple grounds, we met these children who were very excited to see visitors from another country.
Afterwards we had our first curry and tasty naan bread at a rooftop restaurant before heading back to the hotel for a much-needed early night. More exploring tomorrow!
Well, it's one week to go until this year's Kolkata trip and we're busy preparing everything!
Our Sponsored Walk to Kolkata raised £2500! Thank you to everyone who supported us. We have been spending it in readiness for this year's trip, starting on Friday 19th January. For each of the 16 slum schools participating in the project, we have purchased 8 pupil blackboards and a number washing line set for teaching maths. The other Derbyshire schools participating in the project have been raising funds too so you'll see a picture of all the resources they've shared with us, such as magnetic letters, early reading books, phonics cards, dice and counters.
In addition, we decided to buy an MP3 player and mini-speaker for our second link school - Topsia - which we are in the process of filling with nursery rhymes and stories the children will enjoy listening to. There are bilingual versions of some of our favourite stories (and more arriving in the post any day now!) so that the children can read them in Bengali/Urdu as well as English!
Let's just hope there is enough room in the suitcases!
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.