A secondary school in South East Northumberland has been recognised for a second time by the British Council for its outstanding work to integrate international teaching and learning into the curriculum.

Duke’s Secondary School in Ashington has been reaccredited with the International School Award having demonstrated how elements of international education have been embedded into the culture of the school, resulting in pupils having an increased knowledge of other countries, cultures and languages, awareness of key global issues, global citizenship attributes, and an appreciation for cultural diversity.

Assessed against 13 different activities, ranging from taster sessions in Modern Foreign Languages including Mandarin and German, as well as Art, English and Maths-based projects carried out in partnership with schools in Belgium, Spain, Portugal, France, Italy and Croatia, Duke’s was praised by assessors for its innovative approach to international awareness, especially during the Coronavirus pandemic.

Elizabeth McNally, International Coordinator at Duke’s Secondary School, commented:

“While the pandemic was and continues to be a challenge for schools, in regard to the activities we had planned to support our international curriculum, the worldwide handling of coronavirus added a new dynamic to our programme and allowed us to adopt new activities which focused more on the promotion of international friendship through shared experience.

“Our pupils found common ground with the students from overseas in their experiences of lockdown and disruption to their schooling. Working closely with our twinned school in Remscheid in Germany in particular, the students formed friendships and wrote to each other, practicing their written and spoken language skills translating messages back and forth.”

James Pearson, fellow International Coordinator at Duke’s, added:

“We decided to create a ‘Gratitude Tree’ in school where we could pin notes about the things we were grateful for during lockdown. The whole school got involved and we also included notes from our European pen pals, written in French and German.”

The assessment also explored how Duke’s has been able to promote understanding of its local community in Ashington to international students and how international culture has also been shared with other schools locally.

Operating as part of Northumberland Church of England Academy Trust, Duke’s Secondary School naturally partnered with neighbouring Bishop’s C of E Primary School and Castle School – the Trust’s speciality school for pupils with profound and multiple learning disabilities, to further the reach of its international curriculum.

The assessor acting on behalf of the International School Award team for the British Council, commented:

“The international dimension is firmly rooted in your school’s curriculum and whole-school ethos. Your links with schools in different countries are providing rich learning experiences for students and staff. Over the course of two academic years (2019-2021) you have carried out a range of international activities which include different subject areas and age ranges. You have introduced extra activities during the Covid pandemic enabling your students to reflect and exchange feelings and thoughts on happiness and gratitude with their partners at Roentgen Gymnasium in Remscheid, promoting international empathy and friendship. 

Your ambassadorial role is well established via your work in introducing an international dimension to transitional activities in your feeder primary schools, as well as supporting progress towards International School Award accreditation. Congratulations to all concerned! We wish you continuing success and enjoyment with your international enterprises.”

Russ Atkinson, Principal at Duke’s Secondary School, added:

“We are delighted to have once again been awarded the International School Award. Promoting understanding of international cultures and supporting all of our pupils to become global citizens who can contribute positively to their local communities is an important part of our ethos here at Duke’s and we’re honoured to have had that commitment recognised once again by the British Council.”

For more information about Duke’s Secondary School, visit www.dukes.ncea.org.uk.