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Schools mobility to Iceland

St Joseph’s Catholic School and Sixth Form Centre visit Iceland

Seven men and women stand in front of a yellow coloured wall featuring black writing in another language and the year 2001. Everybody in the group is wearing a thick coat and wooly hat.

Headteachers and teachers from St Joseph’s Catholic School and Sixth Form Centre in Port Talbot, and its cluster primary schools, visited Reykjavik, Iceland for a week.

The trip was organised as part of a larger project from St Joseph’s that includes a variety of pupil and staff mobilities. This was a system development visit for which the school applied and offered to each of its cluster schools.

James Torrance, Assistant Headteacher at St Joseph’s applied for Taith funding and explains more about the purpose and outcomes of the visit.

A group of men and women stand together in the entrance area of a building. The glass doors to enter/exit the building is behind them and shoe rack just visible to their one side. Two people in the middle of the group are holding up a blue poster with a map of Wales which says "Cymru" and "Wales"
What was the purpose and aims of your trip?

The purpose of this visit was to bring together the Headteachers of each school to observe the teaching of an all-age school and discuss with leaders and teachers how they develop the curriculum and pupils’ skills across the year groups. We were also accompanied by an Education Support Officer from Neath Port Talbot Education Department to allow for a wider audience across the Local Authority for our project outcomes, and also bring her expertise from other schools to the project. The approaches to school management, staff wellbeing and pastoral care would also be important to observe and compare with our own schools and practices.

Tell us about your partner organisation?

The school we visited in Iceland is called Aslandsskoli and is a 6-16 all through school based in Hafnafjodur on the outskirts of Reykjavik. St Joseph’s and Aslandsskoli has enjoyed links for the last 10 years through the old Erasmus Plus schemes and more recently through Taith. The school is a new build environment for around 500 pupils and is well known in the town for its innovation, dynamic approaches to wellbeing (staff and pupils) and use of emerging technologies. We were thrilled to be able to continue this relationship through Taith.

A classroom setting with children (who's faces are not visible) are sitting at tables. One little girl has her hand up. Colourful work is displayed on the walls in the background. Adults stand observing around the edge of the edge of the classroom, some of which have their backs to their camera in the forefront of the picture.
What did you experience on the mobility to help achieve your aims?

The main things that we observed was looking at the importance of transition as part of the new curriculum. Being able to see the culture of one school, and that they see it as one journey from the age of 6 right up to 16. It was seen as one school rather than two separate ones (primary and secondary) on the same site which did show in the way the curriculum was being delivered. They did have primary school specialists and secondary school subject specialists, and there was more crossover of specialisms than I think we see, as it did have some of the secondary school subject specialists going into the primary school settings and delivering elements of cross-curricular subjects.

What was the highlight of the experience and why?

I think the main thing to say is that if it wasn’t for the Taith funding then we wouldn’t be able to have these experiences and these opportunities to develop our approach to things. We would be reading books and watching YouTube, whereas the teachers who went on this trip were able to experience it. My approach has always been: “Let’s see what other people are doing. Let’s go and visit. Let’s take elements and expand it to suit our environment and our setting.” I think you’ve got to experience it to know what will work. It was all very positive.

Has there been an impact on your school/ the wider community as a result of your experiences?

We already have the relationships with our cluster schools, but it is developing this and working out what elements we can take from our visit to Iceland which will be useful and could apply to our own schools. We will have some form of a consistent transition curriculum across all our cluster schools with a common approach to certain things. It’s doing it in a way which works for us and is not just a tick-box exercise. We are developing a professional learning culture which doesn’t just include our school, our local authority and our country. We are learning from a much wider base.

Would you apply for Taith funding again?

This trip is just one element of a bigger project. We have funding to cover pupil and staff mobilities to Rome, Kraków and New York over the next year, each with their own focus but all part of the wider project. This funding is a longer commitment with a real purpose of matching our development plans, matching our Estyn reports and things like that.

A group of nine men and women standing next to each other in the large hallway of a building. Stairs lead up to another floor behind them, and there is big colourful writing in another language on the wall above and behind them. They stand on a black tiled floor all wearing thick coats and jackets.

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