Hastings Sierra Leone Friendship Link

Schools Report for 2014 / 2015

Education Report 2014

During the year the following partnerships were active:
Dudley Infant School – Edest Infant and Primary School, Jui
Blacklands CP School – REC Hastings Infant and Primary School
Christ Church CEP School – Kankalay Islamic School, Hastings
Elphinstone CP School – Beckley Preparatory School
Little Ridge CP School – REC Jui Lower Primary School
St Leonard’s CEP School – REC Rokel Primary School
St Mary Star of the Sea RCP School – Regmel Preparatory School, Hastings
St Paul’s CEP School – REC Kossoh Town Primary School
West St Leonard’s CP School – Glory Primary School, Hastings
Robertsbridge Community College – Kelly’s Technical Secondary School, Hastings
St Leonard’s Academy – Huntingdon Secondary School, Jui
Castledown CP School had withdrawn from its partnership with St Mulumba RCP, Hastings and a new partnership was being sought.
Some of the above schools were in the process of becoming Academies with consequent changes in management structures and attitudes to partnerships.
Grants from the British Council (Connecting Classrooms funding)
Grants for Exchanges in 2014 had been achieved by: Dudley Infants, St Mary Star of the Sea RCP and Blacklands CP. These were used to fund exchanges as described below.
For Exchanges in 2015 grants were awarded to: The Baird Primary Academy (Elphinstone CP School), ARK Blacklands PA, Dudley Infant Academy, ARK Little Ridge PA, St Mary Star of the Sea RCP, Robertsbridge CC and St Leonards Academy.
The costs of these exchanges were borne by grants (see above), by school fundraising and by individuals.
A party of teachers joined others in spending a week in February with their partner schools. Our programme of the week had been planned by our partners with Francis Mason. Members of the party engaged with schools were: Elin Aherne (St Paul’s), Rachel Hassan (Elphinstone), Anne Pope (Robertsbridge), Rebecca Thwaites (Blacklands), Richard White (St Pauls), Hannah Paines (St Leonards CE), Alison Day (Dudley), Corinne Harris (Dudley), Richard Lane (Honorary Blacklands), Nicole Edouard (Blacklands), Sue Furness (St Mary’s), Jackie Gillespie (St Mary’s), Roger Mitchell (coordinator).
In May we were delighted to welcome back to the UK a number of our partners. The party was organised in SL and accompanied to the UK by Francis Mason. Members were: Ivan Vincent (Regmel), Peter Koroma (Huntingdon), Esther Tommy (Edest), Emmanuel Wundu (Beckley), Anthony Conteh (St Mulumba), Kadiatu Sesay (Rokel), Kashopeh Smith (Kossoh Town), Irene Conteh (Hastings), Francis Mason (coordinator).
A container was dispatched at the start of the year with a considerable amount of educational equipment, materials and furniture donated by our schools. It was intended to arrive at Hastings during our visit so that members could oversee the distribution of goods to the appropriate schools. Unfortunately the container arrived a few days after our return and we had to leave the distribution the Francis Mason and others. Most of what was sent seems to have reached its intended destination but there were some exceptions which were of concern.

The impact of the outbreak of Ebola was disastrous for our partners. Schools were closed from September and many teachers were not paid. Our UK partner schools set out to raise funds to make donations directly to teachers in SL. By Christmas just over £6000 had been raised to be sent out early in 2015.
The Work of the International Pupil Council
Sue Furness of St Mary Star of the Sea has continued to convene meetings of our International Pupil Council.
The Annual Soccer Tournament
A very successful tournament for Year 5 & 6 pupils in our Primary school partnerships was again held at St Leonards Academy organised by Teresa Bennett, a teacher and community sports development officer there. The boys’ event was won by Little Ridge and the girls’ by St Mary Star of the Sea. This took place during the visit of our African partners and was a highlight for them, perhaps sparking the notion of similar events to be organised in SL.

Regular communication remained our top frustration and priority for improvement throughout the year and particularly with the ebola emergency understandably being the highest priority for our partners.
Concern for the safety and welfare of our friends and partners was uppermost in our minds.
Anxiety about the validity of the grants that our schools had achieved for the coming year remained a source of uncertainty as the year closed.
Roger Mitchell

Update for AGM June 2015

Following the same headings as in the Annual Report 2014:
1. Christ Church had picked up St Mulumba as well as Kankalay.
2. Ore Village Primary Academy is keen for a partnership. Francis is working on finding a link.
It is clear that most partnerships are struggling.
Grants and Exchanges
It now seems that ESCC will not allow any exchanges for up to a year after SL is declared free of Ebola. It is probable that all the academy chains will follow that lead.
I have been in discussion with the British Council about whether the grants can be used for other purposes, for example, for purchasing educational materials for partners or for funding the travel and expenses of a person visiting SL to maintain contact. I have also asked about what may be the successor to Connecting Classroom grants. Nobody will commit themselves on either but promise to get back to me before the end of July.
Sue Furness has been in touch with Kathleen Guthrie in Hull who is no longer employed by Hull city Council but is planning an exchange with Freetown. I have tried to get an answer from her about how she is managing to do that but so far she has not replied.
Schools have been told that we are going to fund a container again. They have been told that packages must fulfil certain conditions – securely boxed, not too heavy to lift and clearly labelled. Only 2 schools have told me their consignment is ready.
The £6000 raised for teachers was sent in January to Nellie Campbell at Rokel Bank with a list of recipients and an instruction to get signatures for all as collected. Francis likewise was given a list and asked to inform Headteachers. All the money was collected and I received thanks from all but two schools. Francis chased these up and thanks eventually were received. The system had no way of ensuring that Heads were fair in their distribution to some 200+ teachers.
International Pupil Council
This continues to meet termly, convened by Sue Furness. In my view schools could take this more seriously and attendance is patchy. A meeting with the Mayor at the Town Hall was much appreciated but the Mayor could not commit to spending money on Twinning notices. The IPC has organised a Poetry Competition which is reaching the judging stage.
The annual event took place again on My 23 at St Leonards Academy. As usual it was organised brilliantly by Teresa Bennett of the Academy. St Mary Star of the Sea swept the board of both boys’ and girls’ tournaments. Yvette John’s brought a small group of our friends and lots of food from London. This was greatly appreciated.
Concerns and the Future
Communication remains our biggest problem. Even with Francis as a go-between schools in SL seem reluctant to keep in direct contact and I am not convinced that our schools do as much as they could in this regard.
Schools reopened in SL in April and Francis called a meeting of all partner Heads in May. Most attended and it seemed to be a useful meeting.
We have continued to meet once or twice a term here. We meet next Tuesday.
I have emailed all the main contacts in schools to ask for a written report of progress on a) what has been done in the schools during the year just passing to maintain the partnerships, b) what is being planned with partners as their curriculum projects for the coming year. I have given notice that someone will go on their behalf to their partner schools probably in February and will expect to be the courier for pupils’ work on their joint projects.
HSLFL Strategy Document
Schools will be contributing to this document in due time.
RM 19.06.15