September 2011


  • The low-down on inspections
    Jan Webber highlights the key changes – and the areas still to be hammered out – in the latest Ofsted framework which comes into effect from January 2012. More
  • Penpals & plantains
    In partnership with the Sabre Trust, ASCL is working through the Partner Ghana project to enable UK schools to make a lasting connection with a school in Ghana. Jane Riley describes the experiences of Sir William Perkins’s School. More
  • Fit for purpose
    The cancellation of the School Sports Partnership programme is forcing schools to think creatively and innovatively about how they can continue to offer young people access to sport, in the face of limited government funding. Crispin Andrews reports. More
  • A disciplined view
    Putting the onus on headteachers to decide whether to refer teachers for misconduct threatens to create widespread inconsistencies, says Gail Mortimer of the GTCE. She outlines the implications and consequences of the proposals to change how the profession is regulated. More
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In partnership with the Sabre Trust, ASCL is working through the Partner Ghana project to enable UK schools to make a lasting connection with a school in Ghana. Jane Riley describes the experiences of Sir William Perkins’s School.

Penpals & plantains

When we were introduced to the Partner Ghana project linking Ghanaian schools to schools in the UK, it seemed an ideal way to support our own aims to develop international issues further in the curriculum and to encourage our students to become more effective global citizens. The impact has been amazing and in a very brief period of time has really captured the imagination of students and staff alike.

We launched our link with Bantuma School on the outskirts of Elmina, Ghana, in September 2010 and went to great lengths to explain that we were keen for both sets of students to learn from each other and that the link was primarily aimed at developing mutually beneficially learning projects. We were surprised at how enthusiastic members of our community were in offering ideas to support the link.

The English department immediately offered to get involved in forging friendships through a penpal exchange. Over 40 year 8 students wrote letters introducing themselves and telling the students from Bantuma about their school life and their hobbies and family life. Through the replies from their penpals, they are already getting a glimpse into the everyday life of their peers in Ghana. This has been a really effective way to get to know each other.

Impressions of Ghana

As link teacher for the Ghana partnership, I travelled from our school in Surrey to Bantuma School in October 2010 to establish a working relationship and to investigate ways in which both schools could develop the partnership. I arrived in a tropical rainstorm and was driven through deluged roads and villages for more than three hours, finally reaching the school at lunchtime. Unfortunately, the storm had blown the roof off one of the classrooms so many children were sent home that day.

The following day I was greeted by the school and staff with a traditional Ghanaian ceremony of singing, drumming and dancing; I was made to feel extremely welcome. The next two days were spent talking to the staff and pupils and participating in lessons. The children are very keen to learn and take great pride in the presentation of their work. They are eager to share their knowledge and are very excited that their school is linking with Sir William Perkins's School and are keen to participate in the project.

While in Ghana I had organised to take 22 students from Bantuma School to the Slave Fort in Elmina as part of a joint curriculum project in history. The Bantuma students were given a questionnaire to complete while at the slave fort to give them a focus and aid their understanding.

The students in Bantuma rarely have the opportunity to participate in school visits so it was of great value to them educationally. They were able to ask questions of the guide and they were truly interested in this aspect of their heritage.

When I returned to school in England, some year 9 classes participated in creating an independent project on slavery from a British perspective and these were then sent to Ghana for the students to include their own comments. It was an important part of our partnership and enabled the students to feel fully involved by gaining a deeper insight into this aspect of British and Ghanaian history.

I left Ghana with a drum especially made for Sir William Perkins's School, which is now used with pride in the music department and is a symbol of our growing friendship and cultural awareness.

Ghanaian guest

Five months after my visit to Ghana, Bantuma School sent their link teacher to Sir William Perkins's School to further cement the relationship. It was an incredible experience for the school. Comfort, the link teacher from Ghana, played a huge part in inspiring our staff and students to think about how we can support each other in our learning.

The biology department has just launched a project with year 7 students. As part of their topic on microbiology they will produce information leaflets on the causes, prevention and treatment of malaria. The best ones will be produced professionally and will be sent to our link school as part of an awareness raising programme.

In return we will receive feedback from our partner students raising our awareness about the day-to-day consequences of living with the threat of malaria. We will want to find out their experiences over access to medicines, hospital treatment, what precautions they might take and how the illness has directly affected their family and friends.

The Sabre Trust will support this project by setting up a video conference whereby the students can ask each other questions about the project. Yet again this is a mutual learning experience whereby both sets of students will get a real and meaningful insight that will support their learning.

The English department are looking at setting up a book club whereby both sets of students can engage in an exchange of book reviews. The geography, music, home economics and art departments also have a range of ideas that will help develop the partnership.

Students' commitment

Our students have wholeheartedly embraced our partnership and we have a dedicated committee of year 9 girls who meet me weekly to discuss ideas and progress on ways to strengthen our links and embed this interest and friendship across the curriculum.

They have presented assemblies to publicise our partnership and we have launched the sale of Ghanaian Fair Trade chocolate to emphasise the difficulties the cocoa farmers encounter.

The girls are very committed to the partnership and generously give their time and energy in creating new ideas to broaden our links with Bantuma School. The students have already engaged the interest of the local community and press in their fundraising efforts and Comfort's visit.

She appeared in our local newspaper, and we will be sending press cuttings to Bantuma School for them to see. The school caterers have also been keen to support the link and produced a traditional Ghanaian lunch including plantains and yams.

The librarian has also been very active in supporting the project and has bought numerous books on a whole range of topics across the various age groups. She has also supported a sixth form student in gathering resources for a Ghana information notice board.

As part of developing the link we are working to send a group of year 10s and 11s to Bantuma in July 2012. They are in the process of raising money for their trip and developing ideas for the project.

It is amazing to think that we only launched the link last year. We initially thought that we would trial one or two projects in the first year. We never imagined that so many ideas would emerge so quickly and that so many people would want to be part of this new development.

  • Jane Riley teaches history at St William Perkins School, Surrey and is the school's Partner Ghana link teacher.

Partner Ghana

Partner Ghana is now even more accessible and affordable for participating schools. From the 2011/12 academic year, the annual partnership fees will no longer apply, and the student visits, managed directly by the Sabre Trust, will range from £1,000 to £2,500 depending on duration and itinerary. Additionally, ASCL has set up a fund to help meet some of the costs of reciprocal teacher visits like the one described in the article.

If your school is interested in establishing a long-term relationship with a partner school in Ghana, creating a sustainable cultural and cross-curricular exchange, which culminates in student teams visiting Ghana to complete project work at their partner school, please email or call 0203 239 9471 for further information.

Penpals & plantains