Earlier this term, three teachers from Spain visited Central Primary as part of an Erasmus programme. Last week, we were given the opportunity to visit their school in order to learn from them and we gained so much from the experience.
The first thing we noticed were the obvious differences. CEIP Peñalta is situated in a picturesque town, overlooking a castle and lake … rather than John Lewis. Carolina, who organised our timetable, took us on a tour of the school on our arrival and we were shown specialised rooms that serve specific functions: a music room, gym, library, theatre and laboratory. As for the school day, pace of life is much more relaxed. The duration was the same, but there were fewer lessons (maths, grammar, spelling and handwriting were merged into one), and children and staff would have a 2-hour lunch break, half to have staff meetings and half to eat together. The food was also incredible!
We noticed that the children had large bags with wheels, as they bring their own exercise and textbooks to and from school. Class sizes were a maximum of 20 and each year group had two teachers: one to teach Spanish and mathematics in Spanish, and one to teach the remaining subjects in English. We were given the opportunity to observe a range of year groups and classes, however we were most impressed by the school’s science curriculum and teaching. The older children would receive a theory lesson on a subject and then apply their learning to an experiment in the laboratory. We saw engaging lessons involving pouring acid onto different plastics, testing each other’s blood for type and creating a luminescent painting. These were all linked to the real world at the end of the lesson.
Similar to us, the school has local ties with the library and the librarian visits weekly to read to a class, bringing along her grandfather’s magical suitcase. This week, she had a ton of books all linked to the alphabet and told stories that engaged and inspired the children, and could be understood despite the language barrier. The younger children have a strong grasp of basic English due to the immersive environment that they are placed, similar to how we provide for children who are new-to-English. We also were fortunate enough to observe an intervention for refugee children who recently arrived in the area, as well as a speech and language class that gave us ideas to refine our phonics teaching. A final idea that we loved was the school radio, where a few of the older children would interview different teachers, create a music playlist, make announcements and cover interesting events. This would then be broadcasted on the school playground every Friday break-time and is such a great way to develop oracy, literacy and ICT skills.
We would like to thank every single member of staff at CEIP Peñalta for your warmth and hospitality. Your children are lucky to have such incredible teachers. We came away thinking that often, the teaching in either school wasn’t better or worse, it was just different. Some of these differences are cultural and are not possible to implement in England, however some of the ideas mentioned can definitely be transferred or adapted for us at Central. We look forward to working with you again in the future.