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Comenius Project Conference Report

Comenius Project Conference Report

Thursday the 24th of October saw Hinchingbrooke Academy hosting an exciting European youth conference as part of the EU’s ‘Comenius Project’.

Comenius Project Conference Report

Thursday the 24th of October saw Hinchingbrooke Academy hosting an exciting European youth conference as part of the EU’s ‘Comenius Project’. This ongoing project involves our own school as well as neighbouring Spring Common School working with schools from Belgium, Cyprus, Slovakia and Poland. The conference, the first event of the partnership, was based around the broad theme of equality within the EU with some focus on the role of mass media.

The day began with speeches from Mr. Goulding and Mrs. Taylor, the respective Heads of Hinchingbrooke and Spring Common schools. However, the day mainly centred around two workshops: one on disabilities and another on race and language. The students were divided into two groups with the schools being mixed allowing for plenty of inter-cultural dialogue. The disabilities session was run by Mrs Taylor, the Head of Spring Common and was eye-opening for all who took part. Many commented on how it helped them to see life from a different angle and all were inspired by a vision of a fairer society with less barriers and the result of this session was the formulation of numerous practical ideas and plans to create such a society. The second session was certainly more divisive and fuelled a lot of debate as students questioned racial stereotypes, the reliability of media and whether it was ‘acceptable’ and if so in what way to use words such as mixed-race, gay, Taliban etc. In the case of the latter, we learned that ‘Taliban’ is literally Arabic for ‘students’, a perfectly harmless word if used in the right way. In any case, throughout the sessions all of the students regardless of race and nationality shared the common goal of shaping a more equal society and the discussions were enjoyed by all.

After both groups had done each session and had had lunch, the Hinchingbrooke representatives took the chance to give the guests a tour of the school, which was much admired. The visitors were particularly in awe of Hinchingbrooke House and they were charmed too by the grounds; luckily it had been a bright and sunny day. Some groups even managed to stumble across some reptiles in the PAC as there happened to be a year 11 careers event where the College of Animal Welfare had set up a stall! So they came away with quite an interesting experience indeed.

The day ended with a final session bringing all of our ideas together as a group. We also discussed within our own schools how we would move forward from the conference. Each school then resolved to create an equalities charter and to raise its profile once made and seek to implement it as much as possible.

Before departing, the visiting students and teachers were very kind in giving warm thanks to the Hinchingbrooke sixth formers. The teachers particularly commended us all for taking lead roles in shaping discussions (in some cases, turning them into heated debates!) and feeding back. The Head of Spring Common, Mrs Taylor even said that we “made the day”. For our part, we all enjoyed the day despite not quite knowing what to expect and strongly hope to continue working on this project, both with the other schools and within our own.