Global learning in practice: Bridge Integrated Primary School
Location: 70 Ballygowan Road, Banbridge, BT32 3EL
Global Learning Lead Teacher: Tanya Davis
Join Date: November 2015
Date of case study Interview: November 2017
Key themes: Global learning in the curriculum, topic work, connected learning, learning about the environment
A folder packed to the brim with ideas helps guide the provision of global learning at Bridge Integrated Primary School in Banbridge. It is a real treasure trove of tips and suggestions, containing enough material to help teachers incorporate a strong global element into at least one curriculum topic per term. The folder is regularly updated with new content by teacher Tanya Davis, who has led global learning within the school since it first became involved in the Global Learning Programme (GLP) more than two years ago.
This coordinated approach to global learning has been very successful. Bridge is among the first schools in Northern Ireland to receive a Level 2 Global Learning Certificate from the GLP. Tanya has found her colleagues to be extremely supportive of global learning and appreciative of her efforts to provide them with relevant materials.
Indeed, it was the school’s Principal who first suggested to Tanya that the school should become involved in the GLP to enhance the global learning work already being carried out in its classrooms. The Principal made sure Tanya was given a day for planning directly after attending GLP training and also allowed her to hold a staff meeting to support the roll-out of global learning across the school.
Global learning has been incorporated heavily into forward planning at Bridge. Several actions within the School Development Plan (SDP) relate to global learning. Additionally, global learning has become a visible presence at the school, with many hallway and classroom displays featuring a strong global aspect.
Global learning in class and in assembly
During a recent visit to the school, the GLP team was invited to observe a couple of global learning lessons, typical of those regularly taught at the school. Both were led by Tanya. The first of these was a lesson with P3 pupils, which tied into their ongoing ‘Communities’ topic. This lesson focused on sustainability, including the need for us all as members of a global community to take action to prevent energy and resource wastage. Tanya made excellent use of a free online resource pack called Costing The Earth, which provides a storybook and interactive activity about a family who are inadvertently wasting a lot of energy (and money!)
The second lesson, with a P7 class, focused on global wealth inequality. Pupils participated in an activity developed by Oxfam, which challenged each of them to write two statements: one saying what it means to be poor and one saying what it means to be rich. These were written onto post-it notes and then stuck onto the whiteboard, with pupils given a chance to explain the reasoning behind their statements. This generated some revealing discussions. Interestingly, although the majority of statements about being poor were negative and most statements about being rich were positive, this was not always the case. For example, some pupils drew attention to how being rich might make someone less inclined to value other things in their life, like their family and friends.
Each lesson was highly interactive and a lot of space was provided for the children to give their views and express themselves. Lessons like this are a common occurrence at Bridge, with participatory learning experiences provided as much as possible.
While visiting the school, the GLP team was also in the audience for an all-singing, all-dancing global learning assembly, led by a group of P7 pupils. This opened with an interpretative dance about the current state of the world, followed by a presentation exploring how we can create a better world through taking small actions such as recycling waste, shopping ethically and donating to food banks. The assembly was attended by P4, P6 and P7 classes and ended with everyone in the room singing along with Count On Me, a song by Bruno Mars about supporting friends in need.
Such assemblies are held several times per year to engage multiple year groups in global learning at the same time. After these assemblies, teachers are encouraged to give their pupils a chance to discuss the issues raised back in class.
Bridge engages in environmental work throughout the school year and has been an active participant in the Eco-Schools programme for some time. In March 2017, the school was invited to exhibit at an Eco-Schools Celebration Day in the Lough Neagh Discovery Centre. ‘Eco-Warriors’ from the school manned a stall at the event and showcased their eco-work to teachers and pupils from other schools.
A couple of multi-use gardens are maintained on the school grounds and regularly visited by learners. These gardens give pupils the opportunity to interact with local wildlife, plus grow their own vegetables, such as carrots, peas and potatoes. The school also aims to be as energy efficient as possible. Checklists are posted on classroom doors to remind everyone to be energy conscious in their actions.
The school is considering adding another arrow to its quiver by becoming an official Fairtrade School at some point in future. Since fair trade products are already widely used at the school, this would not require much additional work.
World’s Largest Lesson
On an annual basis, the school joins the World’s Largest Lesson, which takes place every September to raise awareness of the UN Global Goals. Schools across the world join this lesson by providing teaching aimed at improving children and young people’s understanding of the goals. For the World’s Largest Lesson 2017, each year group at Bridge was assigned a different Global Goal to explore in an age-appropriate way, with Tanya coordinating everything from behind the scenes. For example, P1 focused on Goal 15: Life On Land by looking at farm animals across the world, while P7 explored Goal 1: No Poverty by considering what life would be like if they had less than £1 to live on each day.
The school also marks other important dates in the global calendar, including Anti-Bullying Week, which is held in November each year.
Charity, diversity and empathy
Charity work is another core pillar of global learning practice at Bridge. For example, at harvest time, the school collected items to be donated to local food banks. Pupils have also engaged in fundraising activities on behalf of Purple for Polio, a charity campaign run by Rotary Great Britain and Ireland. These activities included taking part in a purple-themed fancy dress day and planting and selling small pots containing purple crocuses.
No matter what charity work pupils are undertaking, efforts are made to ensure that any sort of stereotyping is avoided. Assumptions are challenged and pupils are taught that it is not just far-off countries that have people in need. It is emphasised that people receiving charity support are not simply helpless victims. Additionally, teachers ensure that pupils’ understand the full context of their charity work so they know why they are doing it and what they are aiming to achieve through their actions.
Bridge is an integrated school not just in terms of religion, but also in terms of academic ability. Because of this Tanya believes it is an acutely important that pupils have an informed understanding of the world around them and of the diversity it contains. Pupils from different cultures are encouraged to talk about their backgrounds any time they wish to do so. Sometimes parents are even invited to the school to speak to pupils about their cultural roots. The school as a whole is very embracing of different cultures.
It has also participated in the Roots of Empathy, an initiative run the Public Health Agency to build emotional literacy in children. The programme involves a parent and baby from the local community visiting pupils each month accompanied by a trained instructor, who coaches them to observe the baby’s development.
Balancing and organising all of these various elements of global learning is something that Tanya very much enjoys. She says it contributes to her own well-being. Her efforts are also clearly paying off in dividends for the school.
One of the most striking things about Bridge is the confidence of pupils in speaking out in class about local and global issues. In doing so, they are articulate and display a real compassion for others, as well as an excellent understanding of the world we are living in. Tanya is extremely proud of them, as she should be.
“Global learning is a personal passion of mine and I believe it is hugely beneficial to pupils. Learning about the world and about diversity helps pupils become empathetic and very understanding of other people. It also encourages learners to freely discuss things that are happening around the globe with their teachers and with each other. I’m always delighted by the insights our pupils are able to share with us about the world.”
- Tanya Davis, Global Learning Lead Teacher, Bridge Integrated Primary School