Global learning in practice: Dromore High School
Location: 31 Banbridge Road, Dromore, BT25 1ND
Global Learning lead teacher: Chris Rankin
Join date: March 2016
Date of case study interview: January 2017
Key themes: Pupil participation, raising awareness of global learning, whole school events
Dromore High School has been educating students for more than fifty years. It is a non-selective, co-educational school with almost 1,000 pupils, set on a sprawling campus in Dromore. The school began its journey with the Global Learning Programme (GLP) just last year, but is heading in exactly the right direction.
Global learning is coordinated within the school by the Head of Geography, Chris Rankin, who is ably assisted by his two global learning interns (more on this later!). Chris was the driving force behind Dromore High signing up for the GLP. At the time, he was participating in another programme (which he has since completed) called Senior Leadership Pathways. This called for him to do a school-based project outside his usual subject area. He had already decided to do something on global learning when lo and behold an advert for the GLP arrived at the school.
Attending the GLP training in March 2016 gave Chris exactly what he had hoped for: ideas and a process to use to introduce global learning into Dromore High. Afterwards, he met with the school’s senior management team to firm up exactly how global learning would look within the school. Other staff members were brought up to speed at the end of August 2016, when Chris gave a ten minute presentation to introduce them to the GLP and basic global learning concepts. As part of this, he got them to envision how global learning could impact the school over the next few years.
Three year plan
With the support of the school’s senior management, Chris has developed a three year plan for bringing global learning into the school. Additionally, Global learning has made its way into Dromore High’s new School Development Plan (SDP), which was revised during 2016. Throughout 2016/17, the school will focus primarily on getting global learning out there and ensuring pupils (plus staff and parents!) understand what it is and why it matters. In 2017/18, the awareness raising work will continue, alongside a move towards more integration of global learning into the curriculum. The final year will be further concentrated on curriculum work.
The Global Learning Pod
At the very core of Dromore High’s participation in the GLP has been the establishment of a dedicated global learning ‘pod’ to assist Chris and drive forward global learning within the school. This launched at the very start of the 2016/17 school year. There are many such pods set up within Dromore High, all to focus on a particular cross-curricular theme. For example, there is a pod on literacy and another on numeracy. Usually, these pods are comprised solely of teachers from relevant subject areas, who meet together at intervals. The global learning pod has one crucial difference. Of its ten members, four are staff and the rest are Year 13 and 14 pupils!
Pods are meant to always consider the needs of pupils so Chris chose to take this one step further and actively include some of them. The decision has paid dividends. Getting honest feedback from pupils on what they find interesting about global learning (and what they don’t!) has been invaluable. Pupil involvement has meant a lot has been achieved it what is still a relatively short space of time. Quite often pods are an add-on for staff, who are already busy with their other commitments. But the student members of the Global Learning Pod have proven themselves able and willing to get things done in between the regular meetings. Another key benefit has been the increase of pupil buy-in. Instead of being encouraged by a teacher to get involved in global learning activities, they are being asked to do so by peers and friends.
Global Learning Interns
Two students in the pod, Sarah Duff and Anna Bingham, have become Chris’ official Global Learning Interns - something which was their own idea! Both are in Year 14, passionate about global learning and keen to pursue careers which will allow them to make a positive contribution to the development of the world. As a matter of course, Year 14 students at Dromore High take part in enrichment once a week. None of the available options really caught the interest of Sarah or Anna so instead they approached Chris to ask if they could spend the time working on global learning. Not wanting to look a gift horse in the mouth, he agreed. The arrangement has worked out well for everyone. The extra hours put in by the Interns has been a major help to Chris and the rest of the pod team, especially since they have been so busy coming up with ideas and making plans!
Global Learning Week
The Global Learning Pod is in the midst of organising its first major event. A Global Learning Week is being held in February 2017 to officially launch global learning within the school and increase both pupil and staff engagement. This will focus on exploring homelessness, both from a local and international perspective. The pod has been working on this event for months. At the group’s second meeting, they came up with a huge list of ideas for what the week could look like and ran these by the Principal. He was supportive and very enthusiastic about the proposals.
In preparation for the Global Learning Week, some Year 14 students have already taken part in a ‘sleep-out’ on the streets of Dromore. Sixteen students – all volunteers – spent a night out in the elements during December. They made their way to Dromore Square where they set up temporary residence with their sleeping bags and hot water bottles. One or two slept through the night, but for most it was an eye-opening experience as they struggled to adjust to the cold and claustrophobia. The experience was filmed by some of the participants, who went around the whole group at both the start and the end to ask everyone how they were feeling.
This video will be premiered during the Global Learning Week. Many other activities will also take place, with each year involved in some way. For example, Year 8 pupils will be tasked with building shelters out of basic materials, as many homeless people across the world are forced to do. Year 9 will be doing something around soup kitchens. There will be both junior and senior assemblies on global learning to introduce pupils’ to the key concepts. With the support of the school’s Chaplain, a global learning prayer room is also being set up, where pupils can spend time considering God’s love for the vulnerable in the world. Some students will be given opportunities to engage in charity work with Storehouse.
Across the course of the week, every pupil will experience global learning in some capacity, with the Global Learning Pod working behind the scenes to keep everything running smoothly. Chris hopes the week will show other staff how global learning can work practically both inside and outside of the classroom, perhaps inspiring them for the future.
In addition to the work coordinated by the pod, Dromore High is involved in an international mural exchange. The school has paired with a French school found in Angoulême, a small town known for its annual comic festival and street art. Students from both schools are in the process of creating video tours of their local murals, which will then be exchanged online. Year 11 pupils from Dromore have already started work on their video, filming murals across Belfast, from street art in the city centre to repurposed paramilitary murals. The video will be completed shortly and will present the murals as both shaping and being shaped by personal and national identities in Northern Ireland.
The future of global learning looks very bright within Dromore High. Chris is already beginning to consider ways for global learning to be embedded within the curriculum, in preparation for this work beginning more fully next year. Ideas include Year 9 students undertaking a cross-curricular exploration of the new Sustainable Development Goals (also known as Global Goals), which will include a lesson dedicated to each of the 17 goals.
The composition of the Global Learning Pod will change each year as pupils leave school and move on to their next adventure. However, Chris hopes the pod will continue to hold a Global Learning Week every year, concentrating on a different theme each time and progressively engaging more and more staff in its delivery. Ideally, this will become an annual focus in the school calendar, experienced and enjoyed by the whole school community.
“The GLP training was really good in comparison with other training days. Without going, I think it would have been much more difficult to develop global learning within the school. I went keen to find a process which we could follow to start introducing global learning to staff and pupils and the training definitely provided this.”
- Global Learning Lead Teacher Chris Rankin