Thursday, 28 June 2012


This morning I'm at Weavers Close Church of England Primary, Earl Shilton, taking part in the school's community cohesion programme. "Planet Leicester" is a week-long series of activities organised by the Leicestershire Education Business Company (LEBC).

I was invited at short notice (Monday lunchtime) to take part in Planet Leicester. I was supposed to be with these children on Tuesday morning at Belgrave Neighbourhood Centre, but I had to cry off as Grace was too poorly to go to school and I was obliged to stay home with her.

Jon from LEBC picks me up (along with a Chinese chap called Li) at Leicester University and drives the half hour or so to Earl Shilton. We're joined at the school by James, from Leicestershire County Council.

Mrs Herbert's Year 3 class is split into four groups of seven or eight. We have 25 minutes with each group in turn. To the children, Scotland seems just as distant and exotic as China! Each pupil has a workbook, with one page to complete for each person whom they see. Each of us answers the same set of questions and we have to do one distinctive thing with our groups, that they can show at a display on Friday morning.
  • What's your name? George
  • Which country do you come from? Scotland
  • Which continent do you come from? Europe
  • Why did you come to Leicester? Someone offered me a job here
  • How did you get to Leicester? Train
  • How do you say "hello" in your country? Hello
  • What's your national dish? Irn Bru (yes, I know it's not a "dish", but I wasn't going to let anyone say deep fried Mars bar - or haggis for that matter. And the pupils know what it is - many of them have had it and like it!)
  • What's your religion? Bahá'í (I have to make it clear that  Bahá'í is not the national religion of Scotland though!)

As for the distinctive part we do with each of our groups: Li is showing them how to write their names in Chinese characters. James is helping them make friends with a potato (he should be wrting his own blog!). I teach my groups some useful Scots phrases, such as:
"Keep the heid an ah'll buy ye a bunnet"
"Dinnae day yer dinger!"
"Many a mickle maks a muckle"
"Gie it laldy hen"

I give each group one of these phrases each. I write them on the board, one word at a time, getting the pupils to pronounce them together as we go along. I explain what each phrase means and ask them to think of circumstances in which they could use their phrase. I also coach them how to say their phrase in the style of an old man at a bus stop on a rainy Saturday night. I tell the children that when it comes to the display on Friday morning, they can say the phrase together as a group or they can choose one from amongst them to say it on behalf of the group.

When we all get together for 20 minutes at the end of the group sessions, Mrs Herbert asks me to say a bit more about being a Bahá'í, since the name is new to her and to her pupils. Nice to be given that opportunity.

Nice to be given the opportunity to take part in this event as a whole. I look forward to something similar comes my way again.

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