Comenius Project Meeting in Spain, 23rd – 27th November,2009

Sir Thomas Rich’s has embarked on its second Comenius project. These projects are funded by the EU to promote international links and friendships  between schools through curriculum- based work, increase mobility between countries and support the learning of modern languages. We were very pleased to be invited by the IES Rey Católicos school in Spain to take part, having worked with the school on a previous project. The theme on this occasion is “The responsible use of the new technologies” and is being led by Professor Mariano Chóliz of Valencia university who is carrying out research into this area. We expect to involve both pupils and parents in the project. Also participating  in the project is the Belgian school “Institut Cardijn Lorraine” in Arlon.

The trip

Monday, 23rd November- the journey!

It was an early start for the group-up before six o’clock, a struggle to assemble the last minute items and be at school for 6.45 am. It was a straight forward journey on this dark and rainy November morning due to our competent driver Mr Crumblehulme and we arrived in plenty of time at Bristol airport. We breezed through check-in and security with no problems and boarded our Easy Jet flight to Barcelona. Glorious sunshine greeted us and we reflected rather smuggly on our colleagues and fellow students who would be slaving away at school. Two taxis to the railway station brought our first problem. Joshua and I waited outside Barcelona Sants. Five, ten minutes passed. We checked we were at the right station, we observed the taxis arriving, we looked inside the station. No sign of Mr Crumblehulme and Isabella. My mobile rang. Where are you? asked a concerned Mr Crumblehulme. At the station I replied. Where are you? At the station, he replied., near the taxis. Likewise, I replied. Barcelona Sants? Yes, Barcelona Sants. Finally we met up inside the station. The rather imposing Barcelona Sants station had two entrances. Thank goodness for the mobile ‘phone! The AVE train to Zaragoza could not fail to impress- television screen, headphones and an amazingly smooth journey through the Spanish countryside. History has a habit of repeating itself and as we waited in vain at the agreed meeting point for the taxi to take us to Ejea we discovered once again the indispensability of the mobile ‘phone Two cafés with the same name next to two taxi ranks! What more needs to be said.  Later than scheduled we picked up the Belgian contingent from the airport and eventually arrived at Ejea where we were welcomed by the Spanish teachers. Was it French or Spanish they were speaking- we were not sure.

Tuesday, 24th November

Tuesday was devoted to getting to know the Spanish school and town. We could not have received a warmer welcome from the staff- coffee and cake in the school canteen and a friendly chat in a mixture of French, Spanish and English. Who spoke what? It was difficult to remember. The school, although catering for the same age range as Tommies, was very different. School finished earlier than here with pupils returning home for their lunch. It was surprising to find in this small rural town that some subjects were taught in English. Break in the staff room and another opportunity to

spoil us with local cider and apple cake- delicious! A talk on the local area was followed by a three course meal at a local beauty spot. These meals, we discovered, were to fill each afternoon!  Now to find enough energy for the tour of the town and its two churches. Our final visit was to the Town Hall where we were warmly greeted by the mayor who showed much interest in the project and the impact it might have. Drinks with local cakes, biscuits and chocolates completed the organised part of our day. Evening tapas in a  local bar gave us the opportunity to get to know our Belgian colleagues and Josh was to discover that football is a universal language!

Wednesday 25th November

Wednesday dawned and it was an opportunity to show us the Pyrenees. The monastery of San Juan de la Peña, set into the rocks, was our first port of call. From there we travelled to Jaca, the first capital of the kingdom of Aragon and enjoyed a stroll in the sunshine around this pretty town. Then it was time for lunch. Several hours later we emerged from the restaurant and visited the cathedral and fort, the cunning design of which had successfully prevented an invasion from France. Thursday was the day when serious work about the project was due to commence. An early night was needed. Listening to three languages at once is tiring work!

Thursday 26th November

This marked the arrival of Professor Chóliz from Valencia university. He led us through his research at the university and outlined the role we were to play. Working with tutor groups we would assess any addiction in our school to the new technologies- internet, mobile phones and video games and the results would be analysed at the university. Comparisons would be drawn between countries and the different age groups. It was a long morning and we were very grateful to the Belgian teachers who boosted our flagging energy levels by passing around some rather delicious chocolates. We also learned to appreciate the difficulties of decision making at international level. Each country had its own contribution to make, which was then translated into the other two languages..

The afternoon was to take us to the medieval fortress town of Sos del Rey Católico. After a leisurely lunch we explored this picturesque and unspoilt village.

Friday, 27th November

The second project meeting took place in the splendid palace of Sástago in Zaragoza, an indication of the prestige which the project attracts. A representative from the Spanish National Agency (British Council equivalent) and the Head of the Province of Aragon welcomed us and joined in with the discussions. We were able to complete these in the morning, leaving sufficient time to lunch and then visit the cathedral in Zaragoza before catching our train to Barcelona.

Saturday, 28th November

The hotel we had booked was in an attractive part of Barcelona, close to La Rambla. We spent a very relaxing evening, taking a stroll along La Rambla to the beach and retired early, looking forward to a morning of sightseeing the next day. Around midnight the music began. This was followed by the loud groans of a drunk in the hotel. Could this really continue all through the night? I convinced myself that my younger companions would not be troubled by the noise but, on emerging from my hotel room on the Saturday, their faces told a different story. Breakfast with strong coffee helped and we did manage, before our dash to the airport, to see and marvel at some of the beautiful buildings of Barcelona.

I am indebted to Mr Crumblehulme, Isabelle Chamberlayne and Joshua Nugent for their invaluable contributions and translating work during the trip. They did much to facilitate communication between the groups and help establish warm friendships with our partner schools.

The trip seems already to belong to the distant past.

However, the work is about to begin. We look forward to hosting the visit in May. In the meantime we await from Spain our first tasks.




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