Inspiring Day at School for Migrant Workers


This morning started with what is becoming our normal breakfast of, dry sweetbread, churros, cold fried egg and a dumpling. The students are beginning to become accustomed to no cereal, toast or a cup of tea. Today was a full leadership day for the students, teaching dodgeball and English to the students of Pu Guang Migrant worker school, then the sports festival to the primary students at the Gold Apple School, We were also joined by the principal of the international department and 6 of the Gold Apple School student union.

The migrant worker school is a primary school for students whose families have come to Shanghai from Anhui province to work. It’s a very poor school with class sizes averaging 45 students. As the students are not Shanghai Citizens the school has no government funding, so it is  funded by donations from the Anhui province, a very poor mountainous region, and donations from wealthy families in the cities and the factories that employ the parents of the students that attend. The head teacher noted that most of his time is spent seeking funding, and staff cannot be paid much – all the staff also come from Anhui province, the salary is around a ¼ of what would be paid to a Shanghainese teacher in a Shanghai state school.  This really highlights the difference in the school system. Our students were split into 2 groups, with each group teaching English for 40 minutes and then swapping.

Mr Smith’s group taught Dodgeball first. Well…. An adapted version of dodgeball. The 8 year old Chinese students have little or no understanding of English so trying to explain ‘stuck in the mud’ was difficult. Much enthusiasm and demonstration was needed. The class of 45 were split into 2 groups, one group was led by Alfie and the other by Sophie. Initially they were quite nervous, however within a matter of minutes there were 45, 8 year old Chinese students running around the playground chasing each other. Trying to contain them in the dodgeball area was difficult. The remainder of our students placed themselves around the outside of the square and tried to keep them from running out. Having the Gold Apple School students there to help interpret and help out was really useful. Moving on to trying to explain and demonstrate dodgeball was challenging enough, however when 3 classes of students came out to break time it was even more difficult. Lots of demonstrations, and our students just getting stuck in was needed. And they did just that. The Pu Guang students PE lesson is simply running 4 laps of their playground, they hadn’t seen dodgeballs or cones before, so you can imagine the excitement on their little faces when we introduced throwing balls at each other and trying to run and dodge out of the way. Although, perhaps not all of the students fully understood the rules, there was lots of smiley happy faces who seemed to have a good time.

We then moved into a classroom to teach some basic English to the same group of students. We had decided to teach the Pu Guang students the body parts in English through song. Of course, ‘Heads, Shoulders, Knees and toes’. After moving the 45 desks to the edge of the room our students positioned themselves at the front and began to point and try to label the body parts on a blackboard. Some they knew, but lots of repetition was needed to ensure they knew all of the body parts to the song. Eventually they did! Leading from the front our students proceeded to re-live their nursery years and sing at the tops of their voices, enthusiastically followed by the 45, 8 year old Chinese students. A real sight to see!

Mr Barware’s group stared  with the English lesson, the students on both sides were quite nervous, but with the help of the Gold Apple students things really got going, head shoulders knees and toes was quickly learnt, as students became more confident smiles were seen all around, a competition element was introduced and so two teams competed for the quickest and loudest rendition, Mr Johnson Jiang, the Principal of the Gold Apple School  was in the lesson and thoroughly enjoyed himself, getting fully involved with the games. From the class room we moved outside, the sun was shining brightly and the playground was very warm, but the warm up of stuck in the mud  was greatly enjoyed, as with Mr Smith’s Group boundaries for the game were a little blurred, but as the primary students tore off around the playground they soon got themselves warmed up. Mr Smith advised that running the game with boys and girls separated would be best and it was as this is the usual method in china and the girls got fully involved, the boys can tend to overshadow the physical games. However disagreements over ball possession in the girls game did need to be sorted through a speedy game of paper, scissors, stone! It was amazing how fast the game was picked up, games were soon in full swing, confidence was high all around. After the final game, with a few minutes to spare the primary students decide to have a quick repeat of heads shoulders knees and toes!

Having completed dodgeball and English we then handed over gifts that we had brought for the students. They each received a Jack Hunt Pen and puzzle. The staff and students of Gold Apple school had also brought a gift of a packed lunch for the 90 students who had taken part in the mornings lessons.

The day  at Pu Guang School is always humbling, Will summed it up when he said, ‘this day makes me sad because the students are so poor’. However we reflect upon the fun that we have brought and the stories that the students will tell their families when they get home and see the bigger picture of the project we are involved in. It is also great that we take the Gold Apple Students along, these are the more privileged students in Chinese society and I think it is important that they see the other side of life. The GA students were amazing and really threw themselves into the session, Mr Johnson Jiang was very proud and sees the impact that this day has for his students.

We travelled back to the Gold Apple School where we had lunch and the students had 40 minutes off before setting up for the Sports Festival. Having practiced the festival with Thorpe Primary in the UK and gone through the planning with a Gold Apple students, the students hoped this would be an easier afternoon that the morning at Pu  Guang. The festival was set up so that each student had a small activity to lead to 8-10 primary students from the Gold Apple School for 8 minutes. All of the students would then rotate around each activity led by the Jack Hunt Students. After an opening address by Bella and Millie the students were split up and off to their activities. They took part in Bulldog, teambuilding activities, relay races and coordination activities. Student leadership isn’t something that students in China do too often, but the joint leadership of all of the students was outstanding. They worked together to overcome challenges, develop both mandarin and English speaking and improve their all round leadership skills. The festival was also attended by Jack Zhou and Matthew Knowles  from the British Council, Principal Zhou – over all principal of the GA school  Johnson Jiang and 15 teachers from the Gold Apple School.  They couldn’t believe the success of children leading children and the international collaboration that was happening. The festival was a huge success with over 80 children actively learning and developing Agility, balance and coordination skills for 90 minutes. While the leaders rose to the challenges of teaching and communication. Well done to everyone!

This afternoon Mrs Charlton managed to get a live Skype link to Thorpe primary and tell the students of the school about what she had been up to in an assembly, the wonders of Skype were hindered slightly by a bit of a dodgy internet connection, but she was able to give them an insight into what she had been doing, and has hopefully sown some seeds to students there who in a few years may come and visit China with us.

The students then had a well-deserved couple of hours off and some tea of; Chips, rice, chicken, cabbage, pork and fish. This was followed by a football friendly international.

This evening the students are having a restful night after an exhausting day. Tomorrow we leave the Gold Apple school at 7.30 for a day’s sightseeing at the Water Town and a last opportunity to buy and souvenirs and gifts before a final day at Gold Apple School.

Not so much rest for Mr Barwise, after a welcome cup of coffee he met with representatives from the Pu Dong Education Bureau and partner school, who visited the UK last October. The school sand the Bureau are keen to continue and develop the cooperation, especially the link through PiXL international, plans are afoot for a visit by Chinese colleagues to the UK next October and also looking at running a PiXL conference in Shanghai with a view to developing a hub of schools, focusing upon raising attainment and developing student leadership. Exciting prospects ahead and big plans… the company that owns the school is in negotiation to buy a school in Singapore. I was also asked if it would be possible to find them a school  to buy in the UK! I don’t think Mrs Kilbey will be too happy if I put a For Sale sign up on Ledbury road, so may need to look elsewhere!

All are now in bed, an early night, Mr Smith is taking some students for a run at 5.30 tomorrow morning and then a day of sightseeing.