Over the past two years, The Royal Masonic School for Girls has led the way in fostering a greater understanding of how a Values based edcuation can benefit schools in Europe.
The European Comenius Programme, overseen in the UK by the British Council, encourages schools across Europe to work together to achieve two main aims:
- to assist young people and their teachers in understanding the value of the diversity of European cultures and languages
- to help young people acquire the life skills and personal development needed to assist them in securing future employment within Europe, enabling them to become active European citizens.
RMS submitted a proposal for a project called V.I.O.L.A. which stands for Value in Our Lives Always, based on our own Values programme, and we were delighted when it was accepted by the Commenius Programme and six other European schools decided to join us, resulting in €175,000 of funding. Our personal aim was to encourage our six partner schools to understand and embrace a Values based culture which they could experience first hand during their visits to Rickmansworth. It was an amitious project because success required the whole community of each school to adopt and to embed Values into their own ethos.
Our partner schools were in Austria, Copenhagen, Italy, Spain, France and The Czech Republic and over the course of two years a number of our students and staff visited the six schools, and we in return, were delighted to welcome their delegates to our school and honoured to host them in our homes. The visits included value based activities, cultural visits and an immersion in the life and culture of the host country and all those involved found the trips enlightening, beneficial and great fun.
We were proud and delighted that all the schools learned from the RMS experience and adopted their own version of a Values based education programme taking into account the needs of their school including religion, culture and historical traditions. We believe the outstanding success of the V.I. O.L.A project across all the schools lies in their enthusiasm to understand, adapt and then adopt values, based on the RMS experience.
There have been many positive outcomes from the V.I.O.L.A project but one of the highlights has been watching staff and students from across Europe work together collaboratively, sharing ideas and learning from each other. At a time when schools in the UK are expected to teach British Values, this Europe-wide project has assisted all those involved to understand the values that communities share and those that individual cultures interpret differently. We have all learnt, benefitted and enriched our lives by being a part of this valuable work.
A further offshoot of the project has been the many and varied teaching resources that have been developed and our staff are keen to share these with other schools. For instance, a Top Trump style game allows students to place their own value on the contribution of an individual, either historical or current, sometimes with surprising results! On a personal level, a Values Manifesto for Europeans allows individuals to make their own pledge to live and work using the values of the the V.I.O.L.A project.
The V.I.O.L.A. Project was awarded a British Council eTwinning Quality Mark and won a British eTwinning Award for the best Comenius project in a British secondary school. This means the project can be submitted into the European Awards in 2016. We are rightfully proud of all those who were part of this valuable project.