Pilton school renews Indian friendships

Joseph Bulmer

Staff and pupils from Lourdes Central School in India visit Pilton Bluecoat School.

STAFF and pupils at Pilton Bluecoat School in Barnstaple are hoping a partnership forged across 4,500 miles can continue to endure.

This week they are hosting friends from Lourdes Central School in India with a cultural exchange that has helped enrich and change both schools.

A total of 10 pupils and three staff from the Mangalore school - who have never been to the UK before - are joining in with lessons, spending time with local families and seeing something of North Devon as part of a four year project made possible via grant funding through the British Council.

The aim is to promote a better global understanding between cultures and nations with an exchange of culture, customs, traditions and views.

Pupils from both schools also finally got the chance to meet pen pals they have been chatting to online for some time.

A number of exchange visits have now been made between the two schools and as with previous visitors, this one will be rounded off on Wednesday with a cultural evening of food, music, dance and performance that has become a big hit with the Pilton Bluecoat community.

In February three Pilton staff will be taking six pupils out to India as Lourdes school returns the favour of playing host.

“To think it has gone from a simple email in 2009 to this, with the children now learning about each others’ cultures,” said teacher Ian Thomas, who has co-ordinated the exchange.

“We are now in the third and final year, so the big challenge we have is to work out how we can sustain the partnership, as so many friendships have been made.”

Indian teacher Sharmila Colaco added: “We have had the opportunity of getting to know the British culture and also the experience with families here, spending time at the pen pals’ homes and giving the children an idea of how a family lives in the UK and the quality of life here as compared to life in India.”

Lourdes pupils Gavin Abner Pinto was particularly impressed with the nearby Fullabrook wind turbines, as well as the presence of greenery everywhere: “It’s been an experience learning about the UK and how English families live, I have really enjoyed it,” he said.