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EU Erasmus+ project building understanding

Pic of Excelsior College Erasmus+ students

Excelsior College’s Erasmus+ students

Fifty young people from Spain and the Netherlands will learn about the different aspects of everyday life which make up being a student at Excelsior Academy and being a resident in the west end of Newcastle.

Excelsior’s sixth form college has secured £26,000 from the European Union-backed Erasmus+ programme to fund the Respect 4 Diversity project with Spanish and Dutch partners.

The two-year project will begin next week by focusing on the themes of cultures and tradition, religion and poverty and homelessness in Newcastle, and how they shape people’s lives.

Excelsior students will travel to schools in Spain and the Netherlands next year as the project grows, learning about the issues that face young people there.

Teachers hope this will increase their understanding of how other people live, tackling preconceptions and forming friendships.

Students will record video diaries throughout the duration of the project, hosting and sharing them from their own YouTube channel.

Year 10 and 11 pupils from Spain and the Netherlands will arrive at Excelsior Academy next week as the curtain raiser to the project. They have a packed four-day itinerary and at the end of it, will present their findings about what they have learned and how it has impacted them.

Excelsior College Welfare Manager Donna Harrison, supported by Excelsior Academy UCAS Advisor Anna Wallbanks and PE teacher Martin Pluskal, are leading the project.

“We have got speakers from the Romanian community, Angelou Centre, Youth Homeless North East and people from the Newcastle West End Food Bank speaking to students about their roles in Newcastle,” said Donna.

“We’ll be visiting a gospel church in Elswick, two mosques and a Hindu temple and then we are going to the Discovery Museum to walk through one of their exhibitions which is a history of Newcastle from Roman times to present.

“I hope it will open minds to other cultures, to diversity. We have students who have never been outside the west end of Newcastle or left England before, so it will show them across the world what diversity looks like, to become even better people and pass that message on to their friends.”

Excelsior decided the Erasmus+ project should tackle hard-hitting issues that are a daily reality for some people living in the west end of Newcastle.

“The reason we have decided to look at diversity is because of some of the reasons that came up in Brexit, some of the reasons for leaving, around immigration, new religions, traditions and cultures coming into different countries,” said Donna.

“When we look at poverty and homelessness, we will look at a lot of the changes in this country that have led to poverty and homelessness, the amount of people in the west end of the city who access food parcels from food banks and the Universal Credit change over which means a lot of people will face hardship this Christmas.

“We will look at the knock-on effects of what happens after poverty, homelessness isn’t just the people you see sleeping rough in Northumberland Street, there are actually a lot of young people in Newcastle who sofa surf.

“They are stuck in that trap where they aren’t entitled to benefits, they can’t get employment, suffer family breakdowns, and so where do they go?”

Martin Luther King’s historic words spoken again by Excelsior pupils

Yuri Neves voices Dr King’s historic words

The words of Martin Luther King’s momentous Newcastle University speech were brought back to life 50 years on by Excelsior Academy pupils.

Passengers on the Metro system heard pupil Yuri Neves, 15, recite elements of the speech the acclaimed civil rights campaigner made after accepting an honorary degree at the university in November 1967.

His Tyneside speech took on even greater historical significance when he was assassinated just five months later in Memphis.

The words of Dr King’s speech were played on the tannoy across all 60 Metro stations throughout Monday.

Extracts from his speech were voiced by Excelsior’s Yuri, with four recordings an hour broadcast across the Metro system.

Yuri was chosen for the recordings due to his involvement with Young Writers City at Excelsior, a New Writing North-led project based at the academy.

The Metro project took place as part of the year-long Freedom City 2017 programme produced by Wunderbar, to mark the 50th anniversary of Dr King’s speech with a series of arts events.

Unannounced recitations of his speech also took place across Newcastle, including barbers, radio phone-ins, train platforms, shopping centres, banks, bridges, schools, fast food restaurants and hospitals.

Ilana Mitchell, artistic director for Wunderbar, said: “To make this project happen, we’ve met so many people: food bank volunteers, university professors, politicians, school pupils, business leaders, hairdressers, asylum seekers and doctors.

“People of different sexes, different races, different ages, different abilities. And the most striking thing for me is that pretty much across the board it’s been them telling us why this project is so important, not the other way around.

“In these challenging times, it’s a real testament to the city to hear Martin Luther King’s words so powerfully echoed by the voices of its residents.”

STEM project takes off at Excelsior

Teacher Joe Temple and the young STEM engineers

Young engineers from Laidlaw Schools Trust academies are tackling a STEM Challenge with Excelsior Academy as the runway to their success.

Pupils from Rainbird, Atkinson Road and Westgate Hill Primary academies took their first steps on the road to building their own model aircraft under the watchful eye of a team of experts.

Excelsior Academy has joined with the Success4All charity and engineering giant Reece Group to spark children’s enthusiasm for science, technology, engineering and maths.

Designing and refining their own paper aeroplane to see how far their aircraft would fly with the heaviest weight it could carry was the first task of a six-week long STEM Challenge project.

It will culminate in a visit to Reece Group’s Scotswood Road premises to test out their final aircraft models as well as a tour of the premises of the world renowned engineering firm.

Joe Temple, Excelsior Academy Subject Development Leader of Engineering and Construction, said: “We are working with Success4All who are funding a series of six-week STEM projects to run throughout the year.

“The final week will see the pupils get to go and see where the engineers work at Reece, how they work and to present their project to engineers.

“The idea of the project is to involve as many students as we can from the primary schools, to get the pupils engaged with STEM subjects early on so they have been bitten by the buzz and the excitement of STEM before they reach secondary school.”

A series of challenges will focus on the different aspects of STEM throughout the school year working with large businesses.

Success4All is leading the project. The charity equips and empowers young people for a successful future in partnership with organisations including schools.

One of its aims is to set up more S4A Learning Hubs in areas of low academic achievement, using educational activities to engage young people’s intellect.

Kirsty Hayward, Success4All STEM project co-ordinator, said: “This particular challenge is all very much engineering based, it’s all about designing and testing, trial and error, to design a humanitarian aeroplane to fly the furthest and carry the most weight.

“Pupils will start by making an aeroplane out of paper and then use different materials and computers to design it and then test it.

“We want to show that the STEM project they are doing links to careers that are happening here and now in the North East.

“The whole point is that this is a practical project, team based and the pupils will be learning a lot of STEM skills without really realising it, scientific investigation skills, to get them engaged with STEM careers and to see how many different careers there are.”

Thomas Walling choir star at Sage Gateshead

The Thomas Walling Primary choir on stage at Sage Gateshead with Kathryn Tickell

Talented young singers from Thomas Walling Primary Academy took centre stage alongside acclaimed musician Kathryn Tickell in a packed concert at Sage Gateshead.

The choir sang ‘Fallowfield Fell’ to the haunting accompaniment of the Northumbrian Pipes – Kathryn’s musical arrangement bringing a new perspective to the local poem written about a soldier lying on a battlefield picturing home.

The children also performed the upbeat number ‘Divvent Clash the Door’ which went down a storm with the audience.

The Thomas Walling choir was part of a star cast brought together on the main Sage One stage by the Magnetic North East arts group to celebrate the vast array of musical talent in the region, including Jimmy Nail, the Lake Poets and Baltic Crossing.

Kathryn began working with Thomas Walling Primary’s choir after Music Director Stacey Riley met with Newcastle University to talk about the school’s Music Project.

The university put the school in touch with Kathryn and the seeds of their partnership were born.

The project at Thomas Walling provides an opportunity to put music at the heart of the school and the community. It is proven that music can foster confidence, help develop teamwork, increase pride and aspirations, aid retention and develop resilience.

This research is the foundation of the project. Children engage daily in different musical experiences, including singing and learning an instrument.

Stacey, who led the children at the event, said: “It was a night none of the children will ever forget.

“Seeing and hearing top musicians, being welcomed so amazingly, treated like real stars, sound checking with a surprise live band, performing and being cheered was utterly amazing for them all.”

Kathryn said: “I was so pleased with how it went. The choir did brilliantly.

“Here’s a sentence from an email I received from someone who was at the concert: ‘I really thought the children from Blakelaw did absolutely MAGNIFICENTLY. A real highlight!’”

Thomas Walling Primary is part of the Laidlaw Schools Trust. Sponsor Lord Laidlaw is passionate about children receiving the best opportunities and reaching their full potential while at Thomas Walling, and his generosity is funding the project so that children and families can have the opportunity to engage with music in new and innovative ways.

Stacey said: “It was a huge honour for us to be invited on stage by such a performer as Kathryn.

“To give the children the opportunity to perform in such a famous venue in a ‘real’ concert is something very few children get the chance to do.

“Kathryn thoroughly loves the concept of the Music Project – she understands the power of music and wanted to collaborate with us.

“She asked if we would join in with her concert, which was already booked. When we showed the children pictures of the Sage Gateshead and where they were going to sing, they were really, really excited.

“Some were quite nervous to perform on a stage that big in front of so many people but they were super excited and worked so hard in the run-up to the concert.”

Ally lands top Newcastle United award

Ally Ali with his Newcastle United Foundation Young Leaders Award

Excelsior College’s Ally Ali received a glittering prize from Newcastle United striker Ayoze Perez after being acclaimed a role model for young people.

The modest 19-year-old took his place on stage alongside a host of winners at Newcastle United Foundation’s 125 Years United fundraising dinner.

The black tie event hosted by TV star Gabby Logan in a marquee at Exhibition Park attracted Magpies’ manager Rafa Benitez and a host of current and former players to honour outstanding achievers from foundation programmes.

Newcastle United Foundation Ambassador Perez was joined on stage by Paul Ferris of award sponsors Speedflex to present the Young Leader Award to Ally.

He was described by the foundation as “an exceptional young man whose passion for football has given him the opportunity to become the heart and soul of his community, in spite of an initial language barrier.”

Ally, 19, who is studying BTEC Travel and Tourism at Excelsior College, modestly told few people of his fantastic award, preferring to let others take the limelight.

His achievement in leading foundation football coaching sessions with youngsters and becoming a flag bearer on the St James’ Park pitch before matches, is all the more remarkable as Ally arrived in Newcastle from Somalia just five years ago, speaking little English.

He is a talented player, bagging goals as a striker for North East side Benfield as well as Excelsior College, with hopes of making it as a professional player.

“They told me my award was for the work I was doing as a role model for young kids,” said Ally.

“My mum was really proud and it made me feel good. I’ve supported Newcastle for ages.

“The only people who knew I’d won were close to me, I didn’t want to brag about it.

“My dream is to play for Newcastle. Before I came here I’d heard about St James’s and I’d seen Newcastle on TV.

“I want to be a footballer, I think everybody’s dream is to be a footballer, but I’m also looking at taking electrical engineering at Northumbria University.”

Ally gained a Level One Coaching qualification with the Newcastle United Foundation which is a registered charity supported by Newcastle United Football Club.

It takes the club into the local community, taking the local passion for football and making a difference to help people achieve their goals, on the pitch, in the classroom and in life.

“I’m really thankful for Newcastle United Foundation,” said Ally. “When I joined the foundation, one day I got a free ticket to see Newcastle play and I thought ‘I need to get a job here’.

“We stand on the penalty spot before the game waving the flags. The atmosphere is incredible. The first time I went out onto the pitch in front of the fans I was nervous, I thought the wind was going to take the flag away.

“I stepped on the pitch and everyone was cheering, the noise, everyone is full of life, it’s a good feeling.

“It gives you confidence. When I got the award when I went in front of everyone on stage and did a little interview, I wouldn’t have been able to do that if I wasn’t doing flag bearing.

“Standing in front of people gives you the confidence. Ayoze Perez gave me my award. It came as a surprise.

“They had my picture on a big wall in reception and I couldn’t believe it! That was amazing.”