Having taken children for 12 years on Erasmus+ visits to over 30 different European countries, we were gutted when these projects came to a halt after Brexit. Then we heard about the Turing Scheme and a whole new world suddenly opened up to us!
The Turing Scheme was totally different. Suddenly, there were so many different possibilities, including links with countries we had never even thought of taking children to. Overnight, the thought of taking children to a totally diverse country was a real possibility.
We contacted our international office at the local authority and said we wanted to broaden our horizons but needed a partner school and did not know where to start. They were exceptionally helpful and put us in touch with a wonderful Indian lady from Newcastle who has links with schools in India. We met her, talked through the possibilities and soon, our dream became a possibility. The application to the Turing Scheme went in and we were ecstatic when we found out it had been successful. The dream was about to become a reality.
Parents of our Year 5 and 6 pupils were asked for expressions of interest in their child going. Out of 110 children, we had 60 interested. Names were drawn out of a hat and the lucky 16 children attended an after school India Club for half a term, where they learnt more about what to expect during their week in the country. This was a perfect way of preparing them all for the week.
A memorable and humbling week
I have the utmost respect for those parents and carers allowing their 10-year-old children to go on such a life-changing trip. They were trusting our staff to take their most precious possessions over 4,000 miles away! Just prior to departure, there were nerves from us all – but I think that is totally natural – we are only human after all.
I set up a WhatsApp group so we could keep in daily contact with parents, as I felt that being able to follow the daily adventures of their children would help put their minds at ease. This worked brilliantly and the instant I posted a photo or message, they responded.
After the children returned, one parent said that the highlight of every day was those messages and photos popping up! Another parent said that her whole office was being updated with our daily adventures. We also have a very active Twitter account, @LanchesterEP, and this meant the whole school community felt part of the experience.
The week was both memorable and humbling. Friendships for life were made. Strong links with our partner school were born. The children were totally immersed in the whole Indian culture, grasped each and every new experience with enthusiasm and experienced more in a week than some of us experience in a lifetime.
The responsibility of taking 16 children on a 24-hour journey, consisting of three flights, is slightly daunting. But is it worth it? Absolutely. The key ingredients to taking such young children half way around the world are: excellent planning, great communication, enthusiasm, honesty and resilience. Were there tears? Yes. Tears of apprehension when leaving, tears of joy when there and tears of relief when arriving home.
What next you might ask? Well, in a few weeks’ time, we take 24 more 10-year-olds to Dubai to immerse them in the Islamic culture for a week. This was part of the same Turing Scheme funding application. Two totally contrasting countries and cultures. And I am one very proud headteacher of a great school community.
To learn more about funding opportunities for schools under the Turing Scheme visit our dedicated webpage.
This blog post was first published by the Global School Alliance. Read the original here.