Five pupils and two teachers from Ysgol Dinas Brân in Llangollen visited Istanbul and Kutahya in Turkey on one of the first Taith Pathway 1 funded trips. Their project focused on the mental health and wellbeing of young people at school.
Not only has the experience had a hugely positive impact on the year 12 and 13 pupils who took part, the legacy of this project also promises to make a difference to the young people of all schools and the wider communities involved.
Through the Taith programme, schools are able to choose their own projects and areas of interest for which they would like to apply for funding.
Year 12 pupil Matilda said: “Everybody is affected by mental health, especially coming out of Covid, so we focused our project on that. We were able to take our knowledge and experience out to Turkey and through workshops, found out they get stressed with similar things that we get stressed about too, such as exams. We learned about their exam system and they learned about ours. It was great to compare and realise that we are so similar when it comes to wellbeing.”
Lead teacher and Head of Health and Wellbeing Helen Davies said: “It was lovely to sit back and see from our learners’ perspective; there is such a focus on content delivery in teaching that we don’t often get a chance to hear about their feelings.
“This is a very powerful project and an opportunity for our students to make a real difference. They felt they had that control and ability. They felt more able to speak up and tell us what they need. What we learn through this project can make some real positive change in child and adolescent health and we plan on sharing our findings with councils, policy makers, and other agencies.”
The important project work was not the only focus of the trip; the teachers and pupils also got to experience a new country and culture, and stayed with host families who were able to offer them a truly authentic taste of Turkish life.
Year 12 pupil Lucy said: “We visited the Temple of Zeus, learned the history and culture. We saw a traditional house and were Introduced to their art and painting and music. We went to lots of mosques as religion is a big part of their culture. We tried traditional foods. It was amazing.
“Looking at a country through books and social media isn’t the same. The whole trip made you experience the culture and want to learn more.”
Some pupils were slightly apprehensive at the idea of staying with a host family, but after being given the opportunity to make contact with their hosts before the trip and receiving such a warm welcome, all agree it only enhanced the experience.
Lowri, Year 12, said: “I was really nervous about staying with host families when I decided to do it. But they were so welcoming to us. They had prepared stuff for when we arrived and made traditional food for us to try. We also had contact with them beforehand which gave us confidence and reassurance. Staying with a host family adds to the experience; If you stay in a hotel you can’t form a full picture of the experience. It seemed scary but definitely worth it in the end.”
Year 12 pupil Ashton added: “Going on this trip was way out of my comfort zone and I was very nervous. But I am so glad I did it and it has been so important for my confidence. It has been a really good experience. I would 100% recommend it to anybody who has the chance but might be a bit worried about it.”
Sevin, Year 13, said: “I am applying for international courses at university and this trip inspired me to want to learn more languages, explore more countries… I want to actually understand and experience it first-hand. It was also a great thing to do to introduce me to solo travelling. A trip like this you learn so much and it makes you stand out from other students. It is such an amazing opportunity.
“We will remember everything from a trip like this and everything that we take it from it – I am just so glad and grateful.”
This trip to Turkey was the first in a series of outward and inward mobilities for the school as the entirety of the funded project is due to last around 18 months.
Teacher Andy Wallis who applied for funding and organised the mobility said: “We have a visit to Estonia and a visit to Germany later in the year, and then we host all 3 schools here in Llangollen.
“The popularity is huge; from our assemblies lots of year 11 and year 10 students are really keen to get involved in the next two mobilities and also being a host family.
“We have all seen a big change in the students involved in a short period of time; they have delivered assemblies and done interviews, things they would never have thought about doing before. They have become independent. They need less of our support and guidance. Their confidence is massive.
“The experience with Taith has been hugely positive. Schools are so busy and people just don’t have the time or mental capacity to spend on something like this. But I had the confidence that someone from Taith would help me. They want people to be successful.”