Hastings IndpendentAs twelve local schools, here in Hastings prepare to visit their twinned schools in Hastings Sierra Leone in the tenth anniversary year, they have been attending courses both here and in Hastings Sierra Leone to encourage pupils to ask some big questions.

“Can you trust what you see – hear – read?”, “How can we assess the reliability of information?”, “How can we use reliable information to solve problems?” These are the big questions that pupils in Hastings UK and their partner schools in Sierra Leone are being encouraged to ask.

Teachers from 12 school partnerships with Sierra Leone have been working on bringing ideas of critical thinking into their teaching in the classroom and are excited by the response of pupils of all ages. One teacher remarked; “we have seen children of all ages becoming more confident and more articulate in talking about their own thinking. It’s really exciting”. Another said “there are no areas of the curriculum that will not benefit from a more questioning approach”.

All this is being achieved through a course devised by the British Council, the final session of which was led last week by Course Director, Tim Guilford on behalf of Creative Education Partnerships. Ideas generated through the course are becoming integrated into the teaching and learning styles in all participating schools, both here and in Sierra Leone.

The Hastings UK course was held at the White Rock Hotel. In Sierra Leone, the course was held at the Hastings Twin Town Centre, which was built with funding from the Hastings Sierra Leone Friendship Link, after the Hastings-Hastings Twinning in February 2007. Representatives there at the time included MP Michael Foster, deputy mayor Eve Martin, and Council leaders Jeremy Birch and Peter Pragnell. Plans are being made for a visit in February next year to celebrate the tenth anniversary of the twinning and it is hoped that some of those who attended in 2007 will be able to join the group.

Roger Mitchell, the Link’s Education Liaison Officer, said: “It is exciting to find how the efforts of the Friendship Link are making a real impact, benefiting the community of our Twin Town. Sierra Leoneans clearly understand that a vital key to their country’s future lies in quality education. We, in Hastings UK, are making a significant contribution, while at the same time expanding horizons for our own students. It is a real win-win situation”.

All 12 schools are hoping to visit their partner schools in Sierra Leone. Isabel Hodger, who organised the British Council’s involvement, said; “We expect to be able to accompany groups of teachers in both February 2017 and 2018 and schools are starting to raise funds to bring Sierra Leone teachers to the UK for a week in May 17”.