By David O’Farrell, Head of St Bernadette’s primary school, Harrow
On Monday 15th January, St Bernadette’s Catholic Primary School and Nursery, Harrow, was awarded the International Award by the British Council.
This award is in recognition of the work that we perform with our international link schools and with HCPT (The Pilgrimage Trust).
Over the last 12 years, we have built up relations with schools in Spain and Poland through the original Comenius programme and, more recently, with a group of schools in Italy. We are linked with Colegio Miramadrid in Madrid, Lokomotywa in Sopot and Carducci Fattori in Rosignano.
The links include working with all year groups throughout the Primary ages performing various activities. These include a travelling teddy bear with his diary, pen-pals, newsletters and regular Zoom calls. Then, in year 6, we welcome 20 children from Madrid to stay with our families and we then take 20 children to Madrid to stay with their families. We are hoping to extend this into our links with our school in Italy, Carducci Fattori.
Eleven years ago, we formed our own school HCPT group and we travel in pilgrimage to the shrine of St Bernadette in Lourdes. We take a group of 7 children and 3 adults, who all have the opportunity to pray at the grotto where Our Lady appeared to Bernadette. Robbie said: “It was a very spiritual experience that helped me to understand why my school is called St Bernadette’s and I am really lucky to be part of it.” Kevin added: “Wow-this is an incredible experience.”
The whole community benefits from our international work and the children’s minds are opened to the big world that exists beyond their local area. They enjoy learning about other cultures, looking at the differences and similarities that exist around the world. Most importantly, we are all being educated to realise that children are children-regardless of location or language.
We are very proud that we are one of a very small group of primary schools that travels abroad. We believe that this experience is invaluable as we aim to create the young leaders of the future who have an awareness of the wider world and what can be achieved.