This blog post is about Full Circle’s Erasmus+ visit to Murcia, Spain with 10 primary school pupils from South Wales.
The Erasmus+ project, funded by the European Union, aims to modernise education, training and youth work across Europe.
This project, ‘Learning and Teaching Together’ brings together partner schools in Wales, Greece and Spain to discover how they can create long lasting, positive change across Europe. Our trip to Murcia, Spain, marked the second year of this fantastic project, and was the first time the children were able to travel abroad.
For some of the Welsh children, this was their first trip outside of their home nation. There was a never-ending hum of excitement as we boarded the plane, flew across the continent and were welcomed by the warm evening air in Alicante.
Our destination was Murcia; a city in the south east of Spain. Thanks to its scorching summers and mild winters, Murcia has earned the title of ‘Europe’s Orchard’ making this the perfect place for the Welsh children to experience their first taste of tapas, paella and empanadas.
The tired travellers were more than ready for a good night’s sleep in preparation for the action packed week ahead.
The Adventure Begins
The children got their first flavour of daily Spanish life as we weaved our way through the cobbled streets of the old town en route to the City Hall.
The Mayor of Murcia greeted his Greek, Welsh and Spanish guests and hosted a civic reception reminding us that people of all nationalities were welcome here, in this beautiful city.
The pupils from Greece, Spain and Wales met for the first time to share their learning journeys. At the beginning of this project in 2015, each of the schools identified one area they would like to improve and have been working together to create change over the past 2 years. From recycling to road changes, the pupils had creative solutions to make their school environments healthier, safer places to learn and grow.
The Language of Learning
To fully immerse ourselves in the Spanish way of learning we spent our first afternoon in La Paz primary school.
The Spanish children welcomed us into their school waving flags and singing to the accompaniment of traditional Spanish guitar. The Head Teacher treated us to a tour of the school and we watched the Spanish teachers and their pupils in action.
Immediately we were struck by the abundance of male teachers. Watching the interaction between them and their students highlighted what we are missing in the UK, where just 15% of primary school teachers are male.
The vitality and vibrancy of the classrooms was recognisable and familiar. Numbers, colours, words and pictures adorned the walls – all celebrating and reinforcing learning. Although, not all the sights we saw were ones we were used to.
Pupils with complex additional learning needs were an integral and valued part of mainstream school. The Spanish education system embraces diversity to ensure that all students can complete their education together, regardless of ability.
Unlike primary schools in the UK, it is not uncommon for Spanish children to repeat a year to ensure they reach an appropriate level before moving on. This results in classes containing pupils of various ages and various heights!
The Welsh children were quick to notice that their Spanish counterparts were free from school uniform and were even more in awe when they learned that their school day finished at 2pm.
At playtime the children were left to their own devices and, in no time at all, they were speaking the universal language of rock, paper, scissors and bottle flip.
On the morning that Theresa May triggered Article 50, the pupils from Greece, Spain and the Wales could not have been more united. In their transcontinental teams they launched basketballs into hoops and snuck footballs into goals.
Sport is a language that everyone understands. It builds bridges, brings communities together and creates opportunity.
The energy radiating from the pupils from the pupils was electric and a really sense of camaraderie was in the air.
The next day the children took part in a mini Learning and Teaching Together project, exploring ways to work together to become ambassadors for our countries. The students created storyboards, made films and gave presentations to showcase their learning. Check out the video of their work here!
Time To Say Adios!
No trip to Spain would be complete without a trip to the beach. Plastered in sun cream we headed to Los Alcázares to dip our toes into the Mediterranean and get our daily dose of ice cream before flying home.
Our visit culminated in a wonderful celebration organised by Cáritas, a local non-governmental organisation. The children enjoyed a delicious spread of traditional Spanish dishes, live music, fun and games. The party ended and it was time for the new friends to say goodbye to one another. There were big tears, big hugs and big plans to stay in touch.
The children returned home across Europe, their lives enriched with new experiences and a taste for adventure.
The project taught us an invaluable lesson. There are certain things that transcend culture, language and politics – the love of learning and the power of play.
This blog was written by Sophie Millar, who has headed off to new pastures! We wish you the best of luck Sophie and miss you already – The Full Circle Team.