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Making primary projects work

Do you want to create meaningful bilateral projects for primary pupils but don’t know where to begin? Long-term partners Brookdale Primary School in Wirral and Grundschule Trenknerweg in Hamburg have come up with plenty of good ideas over the years. British teacher Charles Ellis shares their story.

Möchten Sie bedeutende Projekte für Grundschüler kreieren, aber wissen nicht genau, wo Sie anfangen sollen? Die langährigen Partnerschulen Brookdale Primary School in Wirral und die Grundschule Trenknerweg in Hamburg haben im Laufe der Jahre viele gute Ideen gesammelt. Charles Ellis, Lehrer in Grossbritannien, erzählt ihre Geschichte.

How did your link with Germany start out?

I lived and worked in Hamburg for 10 years. My uncle still lives there and I asked him to contact his son’s old primary school to see if they wanted to start a partnership. One of the teachers at the school was very keen to participate. We regularly email and speak on the phone, and the children keep in contact via our blog. It can help to have a working knowledge of the area, but it is not a pre-requisite!

How have you developed your activities over the years?

We looked for things that the schools and their broader environments have in common, e.g. zoological gardens (Hagenbeck’s Tierpark and Chester Zoo) as well as Liverpool and Hamburg both being major ports. We also tried to choose projects that involve a ‘hands-on’ and collaborative approach, address current and future affairs as well as have a tangible and lasting impact on each school. Planting trees in the school grounds and improving energy efficiency are just a few examples of what we achieved together.

What obstacles did you encounter and how did you overcome them?

All obstacles are surmountable! The main thing is to ensure that you have the complete support of the school’s Headteacher and Governors. If planning to visit your partner school you also need the support of your local authority. The paperwork can be a bit of a burden, but after you’ve done it once, it is a lot easier the second and subsequent times.

What have been the benefits to your pupils and the impact on your school?

The benefits are immeasurable. The children have been able to share experiences from diverse areas of their own and other cultures. The children participated in shared learning experiences, which involved both themselves and their wider school communities. These have ranged from looking at how they can save energy in their schools and their homes through to learning what can be done to protect polar species and ecosystems in the rainforest. Some concrete outcomes are: pupils now turn off unwanted lights and are keen recyclers.The children also learned new social, problem-solving and communication skills and these varied experiences have contributed to their social, emotional and personal development. The school staff and associated individuals have gained an insight into the workings of each school and shared good practice in diverse areas of school life.

What are your plans for the future of the partnership?

We plan to further the link with a more ambitious project, which will include members of the wider school communities as well as the youngest pupils of both schools.

Do you have any top tips for other teachers?

  • Plan the activities in detail, but don’t be afraid to take full advantage of any opportunities that arise unexpectedly.
  • Ensure children are in full communication for as long as possible before any visits, to ensure they already ’know‘ their partners.
  • Get to know your children and any accompanying adults well, and ensure that they clearly understand the expectations, challenges and opportunities that they will encounter, before they commit to the activities.

Charles Ellis, 2013

This article is part of the UK-German featured partnerships series.


“Start off small and then gradually build things up.”