Back to School & Beginning Global Collaborations to build a better Future for All

Three UK schools, all part of the Edmund Rice Network, have started an exciting global partnerships on their return to school shortly. St Joseph’s Preparatory School in Stoke-on-Trent, St Aidan’s Catholic Academy in Sunderland and St Anselm’s College in Birkenhead are joining with CBC St John’s Cape Town and St Vincent’s High & Technical school in Asansol, India through the British Council’s ‘Connecting Classrooms’ scheme, working on pupil projects based around the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, particularly focusing on reducing waste in their schools and local communities.

Although COVID-19 has slightly delayed the start of the programme, the coordinator, Ann Nichols of the Edmund Rice England school’s office and staff from the schools have been determined to get this exciting and important project off the ground. Conversations between staff started last year before the real gravity of the pandemic was realised. Despite schools shutting down, learning switching to online etc. the advantages learnt from working remotely – i.e. the ease with which we can all communicate via WhatsApp and Zoom meant that the coordinators of the project, known as, #EdmundRiceSchoolsAgainstWaste were able to keep in touch, share experiences of how the virus had impacted their own institutions and build relationships.

On Friday 26, the grand ‘Live Launch’ event of the project took place, with all schools presenting on environmental and social justice work they have undertaken to date and their hopes for the collaborative project and our planet’s future. Guest speakers included Christian Brothers Kevin Cawley and Brian Bond who both represent the NGO, Edmund Rice International which has consultative status at the UN in New York and Geneva. Both speakers  outlined the urgency with which we all need to face up to the Climate Emergency and work together on finding solutions to the world’s inequity.

All schools in the Edmund Rice Network, that stretches across Europe, the Americas, Oceania and India educating more than 200,000 young people hold care for the earth and concern for the most vulnerable as key values, educating all pupils on advocacy, human rights and social justice.

The benefits of participating in a British Council project are that many excellent resources are available for students, schools undertake a journey of mutual learning, staff received many CPD opportunities in global education and that clear guidelines in how to run and sustain successful global partnerships are given to cluster groups. It is as yet unsure if we will be able to carry out the final step of our project, reciprocal visits between lead schools. Although with the future looking brighter these past few days, we are certainly going to try to get our lead schools; St Anselm’s College in Birkenhead and CBC St John’s in Cape Town to exchange teacher visits by the end of 2021. We have been advised by and working closely with Jacquie Ayre of the Liverpool World Centre on sustainability projects and she is our CCGL lead.

“It is encouraging to work with schools who have a truly global outlook, who encourage students to take a lead on collaborative projects and who are looking to making a sustainable future for everyone a reality.” Ann Nichols, Cluster Coordinator.