News - Leek and Danish schools team up to improve education


Council leader Sybil Ralphs with representatives from Staffordshire Moorlands District Council and Denmark. Inset, from the top, Westwood College, Leek High, Churnet View Middle School, and St Edward’s CE Academy. Picture: Mark Scott

 A TASTE of Scandinavian education is coming to Staffordshire after schools teamed up for an £82,000 international education project.

Four schools in Leek have set up the partnership with a group of schools in the Danish province of Silkeborg.

Now they are planning a series of exchange trips to see life in each other’s classrooms and share ideas for improving young people’s learning.

The first stage of the two-year project began last week, with senior leaders from the Danish schools visiting the Moorlands town.

In March, several teachers from Westwood College, Leek High, St Edward’s CE Academy and Churnet View Middle School will be heading overseas to work with staff in the partner schools.


Silkeborg in Denmark.

And the links will involve Staffordshire University and Staffordshire Moorlands District Council too, who will be working with their counterparts in Denmark.

The initial focus is on teaching, but over time students from both countries could also be taking part in joint activities and exchanges.

Dan Owen, director of the Leek federation sixth form, has been heavily involved in developing the British Council-funded scheme.

He said: “Where we have strengths as schools, they have development needs and vice-versa.

“In England, we have a very strong subject-based curriculum, whereas in Denmark, they have a strong holistic education, which is to do with the person, community and society.

“We would like to explore the community side and they want to know about our work.”

In Silkeborg, pupils have a more flexible education, which can include learning practical skills like coppicing in woodland and painting furniture.

They are also taught in mini-communities, with each class of 25 pupils spending much of their time together, even when they reach secondary age.

Tine Sax, principal of Hvinningdale School, in Silkeborg, said: “The class has its own classroom. It’s the teachers, rather than the students, who move around for lessons.

“The students may even go to a teacher’s home for a chat and teachers may visit them at home.”

But recent Government regulations mean the Danish schools are moving more towards a structured model, drawing on the British experience.

Ms Sax said: “That’s what we want to learn from schools in Leek.

“It’s how to have more specific learning goals for the students.”

Anne-Marie Petersen, vice-principal of Sejs School, said: “In Denmark, the teachers are concerned about how the children are feeling. If they don’t behave right, you try to find out why.”

One idea the Leek staff are keen to take on board is the more positive approach to education in Denmark.

Mr Owen said: “In the UK, when we try to fix something, we tend to see what’s wrong and needs replacing. In Denmark, they look at what works and how they can build on it.”

The Danish visitors spent five days in the Moorlands last week.

It included being invited to a civic reception hosted by district council leader Sybil Ralphs.

Ms Ralphs said: “This particular visit has been purely educational. But the idea is for us to have closer ties with the wonderful country of Denmark.

“There is huge potential for future collaboration.”

Meanwhile, Staffordshire University is looking at carrying out joint academic research with Via University College in Silkeborg.

Both universities will also be organising seminars for the visiting school teachers.

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