Sir John Lawes School in Harpenden, Hertfordshire shares how it has taken an all-encompassing approach to incorporating the global dimension both within and beyond the whole-school curriculum

Helen Gosnell, Advanced Skills Teacher for Global Dimension and Sustainable Development, Sir John Lawes School, Harpenden, Hertfordshire

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During the last few years, Sir John Lawes School (SJL) has gone from good to outstanding in a number of areas and the ‘global dimension’ (GD) is no exception. Our work in this area exemplifies the ‘care’ in our achievement, care and excellent (ACE) approach to standards, particularly in the way that it has developed our pupils’ care for others (locally and globally) and for the environment. The global dimension has become infused in the ethos of the school and pupils now have a range of opportunities to engage in global issues and become active global citizens.

There have been several catalysts that have led the school to incorporate more of the global dimension into the curriculum and into the wider life of the school.

School context

Sir John Lawes School is a co-educational secondary school with 1,200 pupils located in Harpenden, Hertfordshire. SJL has art and science specialist status and is also a training school. In 2007, we received the International School Award and hold a number of other awards including Healthy Schools, Challenge Award and Investors in People. SJL has a fairly affluent catchment area with a below average percentage of pupils receiving free school meals. Its ethnic mix is predominantly white British with 8.4% being from minority ethnic groups. SJL received ‘outstanding’ in its latest Ofsted inspection (2008) and has excellent exam results with more than 80% of students obtaining five GCSEs grade A*–C including English and maths. For the last two years, SJL has achieved the highest value-added scores in Hertfordshire for KS2–KS4. At the heart of the school’s ethos is the Sir John Lawes ACE – which stands for achievement, care and excellent standards.

Catalysts for developing the global dimension

  • My arrival in 2005 as a new staff member (NQT) who ‘championed’ the global dimension – the ideas and initiatives that I put forward were met with support and encouragement by the senior leadership team
  • Our experience in 2006 of an Ofsted inspection on education for sustainable development (ESD) , as one of the schools surveyed for the research report Schools and sustainability (Ofsted, 2008), which raised staff awareness of ESD and GD
  • Appointment in 2006 of an ESD, Global Citizenship and International Links coordinator, with a teaching-and-learning-responsibility (TLR) payment, which further validated the role
  • Running high-profile ‘global dimension’ activities, including an International Enrichment Day, reciprocal visits with a partner school in Zambia and involvement in Global Campaign for Education

After only three years in the school, I was appointed this September as an Advanced Skills Teacher for Global Dimension and Sustainable Development. As a local-authority funded post, this means I will be supporting schools across Hertfordshire. The title of ‘global dimension and sustainable development’ was seen as appropriate because these appear together as a cross-curriculum dimension in the new Key Stage 3 curriculum. As far as we are aware, this is the first such position in the country and is a testament to the importance the school and local authority place on the global dimension.

How we started to develop GD

When I arrived at Sir John Lawes School in 2005 as a geography NQT, I was keen to contribute to the wider life of the school by establishing links with a school in a developing country. I had benefited from this type of activity when I was at school and recognised how much it had opened my eyes to another part of the world and was formative in terms of my ongoing interest in global issues. Since completing my own schooling, I went on to work in a number of countries – teaching English in Nepal, working as a consultant with an international development firm in Bangladesh and Kyrgyz Republic, and working in Zambia through Voluntary Services Overseas (VSO) on a Department for International Development (DFID) research project. This gave me contacts I could approach with regard to setting up a school partnership.

I also set up a Year 9 ‘International Links’ group at SJL to select the school we should link with. Starting our journey towards a greater global dimension with pupils at the centre has been integral to our success.

In hindsight, it was the establishment of this partnership that was the first area of focus in terms of incorporating more of a global dimension in the curriculum. I say ‘more’ because actually we (like all schools) already delivered aspects of the global dimension; it just wasn’t very explicit. What we have done during the last few years is develop this area, starting with our Global School Partnership (GSP).

Role of Global School Partnership

In September 2005, the newly-formed Y9 International Links group chose to set up our partnership with Ndeke High School in Zambia. The reasons for our choice are given in this box – these points would be worth considering by any school venturing on a similar activity.

Reasons for choosing our link school

  • It was a mixed school with a similar age profile to our own pupils
  • It was a government funded school (which meant it wasn’t just for the elite of the country)
  • They had some access to computers, which meant we could have (limited) contact by email
  • The language the pupils were taught in was English, which would make communication easier between the schools
  • The country was seen to be peaceful and so visits might be possible in the future
  • The school was located in an accessible urban area, making communication easier and school visits more feasible
  • I knew the town in which the school is located as I had worked in Zambia for a year with Voluntary Service Overseas

The next step was to identify exactly what the two schools wanted to achieve. We had already shared something about what we were aiming for in a partnership when we initially contacted the school – see the box below.

Initial aims

  • Develop links at an individual level between pupils (using email/www or writing)
  • Share teaching and learning ideas
  • Use links to learn about different aspects of life in another country
  • Set up exchange visits – starting with teachers and leading up to pupil visits

Core principle: to promote a global dimension in the curriculum through the development of innovative, equitable and sustainable school partnerships.

Funding from DFID would initially support a teacher from both schools to visit each other and establish the link. If this was successful, more funding would be available for developing the link.

We wanted our partnership to be focused on teaching and learning with both schools being able to learn from each other. This doesn’t mean there has been no transfer of resources; only that this hasn’t been the focus of the partnership. The Global School Partnership Programme (which we were intending to apply for funding from) doesn’t fund ‘charity’-style links where the emphasis is on the UK school ‘helping’ the school in the developing country.

To apply for the GSP Reciprocal Visit Grant, we had to work with Ndeke High School to identify areas of collaboration and joint curriculum work. Teachers from both schools suggested ideas and pupils were also consulted. These areas of joint curriculum work had to involve one or more of the eight key concepts of the global dimension:

Core concepts

  • Citizenship
  • Sustainable development
  • Conflict resolution
  • Values and perceptions
  • Diversity
  • Human rights
  • Social justice
  • Interdependence

We developed our initial grant application ideas during the subsequent visits involving the partnership coordinators from both schools. Looking back, the decision of who should visit first was very important. The coordinator that visited SJL from Ndeke, a human resource manager and biology teacher, was very passionate and full of life; pupils and staff warmed to his personality and he made them want to find out more about Zambia. It was this visit that raised the profile of the partnership at SJL and captured the school’s interest. This then made it easier to gain support for subsequent activities.

Initial curriculum work
In terms of curriculum work, our first focus was on the partnership coordinators’ two subject areas (geography and science).

In geography, we adapted our KS3 scheme of work on ‘development’ to incorporate the learning we had gained from Ndeke High School. During my visit to Ndeke, I took video footage of the Zambian pupils talking about development issues such as debt and HIV/AIDS, which were then shown to the SJL pupils back in the UK. The SJL pupils also benefited from a question-and-answer session with the visiting Zambian teacher who went into all Y8 geography classes. We also adapted an existing Year 7 activity – in which pupils produced a collage on ‘life in the UK’ – into a competition in which we asked them to design their collage for pupils from Ndeke High School. Pupils at Ndeke also prepared collages about their country and these were exchanged and displayed.

During his visit to the UK, the Ndeke coordinator worked with one of our science teachers to develop an activity in which pupils would compare the nutritional value of their diets. Pupils from both schools had to keep a weekly diary of their diet, which was then sent to the other school for nutritional analysis. We have now integrated the healthy eating theme into our life skills curriculum at SJL where pupils have a lesson comparing typical diets in the UK and Zambia and also explore the fact that within Zambia there is great diversity (for example, not everyone is poor and malnourished; many people have a very balanced diet with a lot of fresh food).

While much of the organisation at this stage was by the coordinators, without the support and encouragement of the senior leadership team (SLT), it would have been more difficult to make progress. As the partnership has gone on, many more teachers from each school have been involved, making the partnership more sustainable.

During our three-year partnership with Ndeke we have experienced a number of benefits:

Benefits of our GSP   

  • Pupils have had the opportunity to learn about the similarities and differences of another culture
  • It has made global issues more real to our pupils (such as HIV/AIDS)
  • It has encouraged our pupils to be more active global citizens (for example, to become involved in the Global Campaign for Education)
  • The link has broken down some of our stereotypes of an African country
  • Pupils have made friends with children in another country
  • The link has developed student leadership opportunities

but also a range of challenges:

Challenges of our Global School Partnership

  • Joint curriculum work is difficult to organise and implement, and time delays in sending and receiving information can be frustrating
  • Limited curriculum time and space can make joint curriculum work difficult to fit in
  • Visits are timeconsuming to organise and it is difficult to select the most appropriate staff and pupils to participate
  • Future sustainability of the reciprocal visits will be a big challenge once our GSP funding runs out

The partnership has acted as a catalyst for other global dimension activities at school and in the wider community. The box below gives examples of some of our partnership activities showing some of the ways in which we have covered the eight concepts in the last year, and illustrating the range of teaching and learning approaches used.

Examples of how we covered the concepts last year
Human rights
  • Through informing pupils about the Global Campaign for Education and taking part in the World’s Biggest lesson attempt, KS3 pupils learned about the rights of children to an education and explored why these rights weren’t always realised
  • Year 8 RE pupils studied a module on prejudice and discrimination, which not only developed their understanding but also made them consider how they can be challenged and combated
Global citizenship
  • All Year 11 pupils took part in a Mock United Nations debate on climate change which took part on our International Enrichment Day
Conflict resolution
  • An activity was circulated to tutors to use during ‘Thought for the Week’ to mark the event of Peace One Day
Social justice
  • The School Council has taken a lead on Fairtrade and has organised a range of events including Fairtrade tuck shops (enterprise links); the school is currently working towards Fairtrade School status and has a steering group comprised of staff and pupils
  • On International Enrichment Day, Year 10 pupils focused on ‘ethical trade’ and in groups debated the ‘for’ and ‘against’ in relation to purchasing from companies such as McDonalds, Starbucks and Nestle
Values and perceptions
  • We exchanged questionnaires on attitudes and behaviour in relation to religion with Ndeke High School and are working towards a project on how religion impacts on attitudes towards school
Sustainable development
  • Y9 design and technology pupils made products out of recycled materials and exchanged these with our partner school

Impact of Ofsted focus on ESD

Being selected for an Ofsted inspection on ESD, as part of its survey on teaching on sustainability, had a number of benefits for our school – see below.

Benefits of ESD inspection

  • Led us to audit the curriculum and made us realise how much ESD and global-dimension work we already did (it just hadn’t been branded as such)
  • Raised awareness among staff of what ESD was and gave greater legitimacy to attempts to develop ESD and the global dimension within the curriculum
  • Led us to produce a detailed action plan for ESD/global dimension as part of the school development plan
  • Resulted in the appointment of a TLR for ESD, Global Citizenship and International Links

As a result of the inspection, we completed (and recently updated) the sustainable school self-evaluation form, helping us to prioritise areas for future development. We also now have ‘ESD’ as a cross-curricular theme on our Ofsted lesson-plan proforma. However, we have decided not to go down the route of asking staff to highlight the concepts of the global dimension (or ESD) on individual lesson plans, mainly because there is enough evidence that we enable our pupils to gain knowledge, skills and understanding in these areas without having to add to paperwork by formalising it within individual lesson plans. Also, the way in which we might incorporate the ‘global dimension’ will change from year to year given global issues are constantly changing.

Assessing progress

We haven’t yet formally undertaken a broad evaluation of pupils’ knowledge, understanding, skills and attitudes in relation to the global dimension. However, we do feel it is important to monitor progression so this year we are going to train some Year 10 pupils to audit the attitudes of Y7 and 10 pupils using a toolkit produced by Reading International Solidarity Centre (RISC) called How do we know it’s working (RISC, 2008), which has a range of participatory activities.

Evaluations of specific activities as well as discussions with staff members has provided us with various evidence of how the emphasis on the global dimension has made a difference to our pupils – see the box below for examples of how.

Making a difference to pupils

  • Through exposure to visitors from our partner school, pupils have developed tolerance and respect for others
  • Through involvement in the Global Campaign for Education, pupils have developed their awareness of rights
  • Through the Eco-Schools programme and a greater emphasis on environmental issues in the curriculum, pupils have developed a greater sense of environmental responsibility
  • Through the joint curriculum work with Ndeke High School, pupils have been able to develop shared values
  • Through an increased emphasis on pupil leadership across the school, pupils are developing skills for global citizenship and the opportunity to practise these through curricula and extra-curricula activities
  • Through raising funds to support our school partnership work and setting up Fairtrade tuck shops, pupils are able to develop an enterprising approach to global issues
  • Through taking part in international visits and meeting international visitors, pupils are able to develop understanding of other cultures

International School Award

Being involved with the International School Award (ISA) raised the profile of the global dimension in our school, helped us to develop GD in different areas of the curriculum, and acted as a catalyst for new ideas and activities (for more details on this award, see the box below).

International School Award programme

The International School Award programme is a free accreditation scheme for curriculum-based international work in schools. It offers a framework within which schools can develop international partnerships and achieve curriculum goals, ideas for collaborative-based international projects and a recognition of the importance of the inclusion of the global dimension in pupils’ learning experiences. A total of 586 schools from across the UK were accredited with the full Award in 2008.

As an example of how the stages can work, in September 2005, the Grange School and Sports College in South Gloucestershire achieved the ISA Stage 1 and is now planning to achieve the full award by ensuring that 75% of the curriculum has a global dimension. The first step they took was to introduce a new approach to learning in Year 7 with a ‘thinking-to-learn’ curriculum. The Art, English and humanities faculties use Africa as a teaching medium, with five national curriculum thinking skills as an underlying competence (EES-SW, 2007).

A school link can take many forms. But it is perceived by the main funders of such programmes – be it the Department for International Development (DFID), European Union or British Council – as enabling pupils to learn with and from their peers in other countries through curriculum-based projects and direct personal dialogue, whether face-to-face, via email, video-conferencing or exchange of letters. If organised well, linking can help pupils and the school to broaden horizons and make issues and perspectives from elsewhere in the world immediate and personal to them.

For more details of the DFID Global School Partnerships (DGSP) programme, delivered since 2003 by a consortium of the British Council, Cambridge Education Foundation, UK One World Linking Association (UKOWLA) and Voluntary Service Overseas (VSO).

We applied for the ISA in July 2006 and following our various activities over the year, achieved the award in summer 2007. Using the evaluation proforma available on the ISA website, we collected the views of staff and pupils to evaluate and learn from this work. This not only provided us with the evidence required, but also gave us ideas for how to improve activities in future years.

Non-curriculum events

There are many non-curriculum events and opportunities that have complemented our curriculum activities. These activities can provide important learning opportunities, as often they are the things that make the global dimension ‘real’. They also tend to be fairly high profile and so capture the attention of the whole school – see the box below for examples.

Examples of non-curriculum events
What happened? What were the benefits?
Global Campaign for Education Four Y9 pupils went to Kenya to make a film for the Send my Friend to School Campaign and subsequently visited Parliament and Brussels to lobby politicians about global education; another two pupils interviewed Gordon Brown at Downing Street about education. Other activities include: inviting our MP into school for a ‘Question Time’ event; hosting a ‘Global Education Action Day’ attended by eight other Hertfordshire secondary schools; holding a assembly on global education for our Y7s and local primary schools.
  • Pupils developed skills for global citizenship and have gone on to use these skills for the benefit of other pupils (including local primary school pupils)
  • Through sharing their experiences with others, pupils across the school have developed a greater sense of appreciation of the education that we have
  • Pupils from across the school have been able to see that they can have a dialogue with politicians
  • Helped strengthen links with local schools
Peae One Day We organised a ‘Peace One Day’ event in a local church attended by nine schools as well as other local community members.
  • Brought our local schools together in a positive way and strengthened our relationship with them
  • Highlighted the value of peace to pupils, showing what they can do to help bring peace into their families, schools and local communities
International Enrichment Day We have run two off-timetable International Enrichment Days in school for all Year 8-11 pupils – engaging them in activities that would be difficult to do in the normal curriculum time (such as running a Model United Nations summit, visiting local supermarkets to investigate food miles, and designing and making models of eco-houses).
  • Gave staff the chance to be creative and teach in a way that is outside their normal classroom practice (for example, a maths teacher facilitated a discussion on ethical trade)
  • Enabled us to develop topical global issues without annually updating a scheme of work
J8 Competition UNICEF run an annual J8 Competition, which selects a team of UK school pupils to represent their country at the J8 Summit (held alongside the G8 summit) – we won this in 2007 and entered again in 2008.
  • Pupils that entered developed their own knowledge and understanding of topical global issues through researching the topics and putting forward their views
  • Pupils developed skills in global citizenship through discussing their views with children from other countries and working towards a joint declaration

Learning from other schools

Developing the global dimension in other schools in our area has involved organising activities for pupils, as well as communication with other teachers. The chance to benefit from tried-and-tested ideas from other schools was one of my prime motivations for starting a Hertfordshire Global Dimension Working Group, which I have now been coordinating for the past year and a half. Funded by the DFID Enabling Effective Support Programme, this enables teachers to meet to discuss ideas and share good practice in relation to the global dimension. Our last meeting was on how we can use ICT to promote GD and our next meeting will be on the Fairtrade schools programme. We have also organised annual conferences aimed at sharing good practice.

Equipping teachers to deliver GD

To help ensure our teachers are equipped to implement the global dimension, for the last two years, all new members of staff have attended a session on the ‘global dimension at Sir John Lawes’ as part of their induction programme. We also provide opportunities for all staff to receive updates on this aspect of school life. For example, for the last three years all of our annual residential staff conferences have featured pupils talking about an aspect of global dimension work.

Future plans

During the last three years, we have made substantial progress in developing the global dimension, but we are not complacent and recognise that there are still areas in which we can make improvements. For example, we are looking at how we can have a greater emphasis on human rights and the new head of life skills is exploring the UNICEF Rights Respecting Schools award programme as a vehicle for this (see: We also want to do more to track our learners and find out how their attitudes change as they move through the school, which is why we are going to use the RISC toolkit mentioned earlier.

We are realistic in terms of what can be achieved. One of the main obstacles we face in implementing any initiative in school is time, and we need to ensure that our well-intentioned ideas aren’t overly timeconsuming for our staff. At SJL, we have been in a fortunate position where exam results are outstanding and so perhaps we have had more freedom to introduce new ideas into the curriculum and wider life of the school than colleagues in other schools.

I hope that the global dimension will continue to be infused within the ethos of our school: this is far more important than paperwork and policies as it means that staff and pupils across the school are coming up with and implementing new ideas themselves and aren’t waiting for a ‘coordinator’ to tell them what to deliver and how. This is the only sustainable way to embed a global dimension in a school. In hindsight, there is not a lot we would (or could) have done differently. Key action that enabled us to make progress is set out in the box above.

Helen Gosnell, Advanced Skills Teacher for Global Dimension and Sustainable Development, Sir John Lawes School, Harpenden, Hertfordshire