Hastings Sierra Leone Friendship Link
St Mary Magdalene Catholic Primary has a link school in Hastings, Sierra Leone: Beckley Preparatory School.
Through the British Council’s Connecting Classrooms and the Hastings Sierra Leone Friendship Link, the two schools are focused on ‘Protecting Our Future’ - a project designed to support pupils in developing core skills, such as student leadership, personal development and collaboration, by exploring issues and solutions to protect our climate and environment.
During the half term of October 2023, one of our teachers, Miss Cross, travelled to Hastings, Sierra Leone to visit our link school: Beckley Preparatory School. The focus for this year is ensuring that we look after our future by recycling and the importance of tress in the community – each school was gifted a tree to plant within their school grounds.
Over the past few years, we have had a number of staff travel to Sierra Leone to visit Beckley Preparatory School to find out about life there and to bring resources to share with the children. We have also been lucky enough to have a teacher from Beckley Preparatory School, Emelia MacCauley, visit us here in Bexhill.
In previous years, our school has helped to raise £275 for a Sanitation Project to help improve water supply and sanitation in schools in Hastings, Sierra Leone. This year, St Mary Magdalene Catholic Primary School raised £580.41 for the Hastings Sierra Leone Friendship Link and the Protecting Our Futures and School Farms project. The teachers in Sierra Leone have worked extremely hard on their school farms and we celebrated this by holding and exhibition to showcase this hard work and dedication to the project.
The trip started with a joint workshop between the English and Sierra Leone teachers, where we discussed and shared ideas of best classroom practice and how we create an environment fit for learning. This was a great opportunity for the teachers to learn about each other’s cultures, curriculums and school life. The English teachers then shared a collection of pedagogical methods including using phonics for early reading and using double-sided mathematics counters to teach how to use the four operations: addition, subtraction, multiplication and division. The Sierra Leone teachers then had some time to practise these methods with the English teachers.
Miss Cross then spent 3 days in Beckley Preparatory school observing and teaching. During the first day, a teacher went home unwell, so Miss Cross stepped in and taught a year 3 class for the afternoon. She focused on learning the sounds related to phonics and played some phonics games relating to the sounds that the children had learned that afternoon. Miss Cross also taught a year 1 class phonics and demonstrated ways in which to keep children engaged by having them move around the classroom to find the correct sounds. Miss Cross also spent some time in a year 4 and 5 class revisiting the mathematics learning from the workshop to teachers who did not attend - she taught multiplication of 2 by 1-digit numbers using the counters donated to the school. The class teachers were open to the idea of using the counters within their own teaching.