A SCHOOL has further strengthened its award-winning international links.

Three teachers at Eastburn Junior & Infant School have just returned from Croatia, where they learned about primary education there.

The trip was the latest in a series of e-Twinning and job-shadowing projects carried out by the school.

Diana Linford, a specialist language teacher and e-Twinning ambassador, with colleagues Ruth McMeekin and Jenny Hughes spent a week at Osnovna Škola Ludina – about an hour’s drive from the capital, Zagreb.

The visit was part of an Erasmus+ initiative funded by the European Union.

Mrs Hughes said: “Our attention was focused on teaching in four main areas – writing, maths, early years and special educational needs – but as with all Erasmus+ projects, an additional aim was to raise cultural awareness and develop an international perspective.

“None of us spoke Croatian before the trip, but we had all worked on learning some basics.

“Luckily, most of the Croatian teachers and all of the older children could speak good English.

“The pupils have English lessons from age six, when they start school.”

The team found that whilst there were many similarities between the Ludina school and Eastburn, notable differences also existed.

“Classes there are much smaller – usually between 12 and 20 pupils – and because of a ‘two-shift’ system only half the children are in school at any one time,” said Mrs Hughes.

“There is no playtime – children just have a five-minute break after each 45-minute lesson.

“Pupils only really start learning to read and write when they enter school at age six, two years later than here in the UK, but they make rapid progress from that point.”

The trio also visited a kindergarten, attended by almost all children aged three to six.

The emphasis there was on oral language and practical and social skills.

A highlight of the week was a Skype call to Eastburn involving children and teachers from both schools.

They were able to ask each other questions and compare aspects of school life, including the pros and cons of uniform and what sports they learned.

Mrs Hughes said the trip was hugely beneficial.

“It provided rich opportunities to look at our practices from a different perspective and to ‘think outside the box’,” she said.

“Animated evening discussions with the Ludina teachers helped us all to reflect on approaches and strategies, as well as learn more about each other’s culture and history.

“We hope this may be just the beginning of an ongoing partnership, which will bring more direct contact between the children at the two schools and a range of exciting opportunities to broaden horizons and deepen learning.”