An Interview With Sandymoor Assistant Principal: Julie Sutcliffe

On 3rd July 2019, 20 students and 2 teachers embarked on their 5,875-mile trip from Wenzhou to London Heathrow. Sandymoor have continued to strengthen their three-year sister school partnership by hosting Wenzhou No.2 Experimental Middle School ahead of their trip to China in 2020. The exchange students received a warm welcome from their sister school with an exciting five-day itinerary ahead of them. We sat down with Julie Sutcliffe to ask her about her experience on our programme and her future plans to develop the partnership with China further.

What were your expectations before your trip to China?

Julie Sutcliffe

The reason that we organised a trip to China for our students was to give them a life-changing experience that they would never have the chance to undergo. As a school we were studying Mandarin at the time and it was about broadening their horizons. We have an ethos that we want to create global citizens of the future. So, for our children to actually visit China and to experience a culture completely removed from the UK and create life-long friendships that would stay with them forever.

What are your thoughts about the culture, people and food in China?

I remember when I first went out on the Heads Delegation and you have a preconceived idea of what China is going to be like. I came back and I was talking to friends and family and saying you know China is exactly how you expect it to be but it’s also completely different to how you expect it to be. There were things that I thought yes that’s exactly what I thought China to be but then others not what I expected. In terms of the food it was fantastic and just loved every minute of it. The people are so friendly they can’t do enough for you. They want to show off their school, city and their country to the best light possible.

What are the benefits of the programme to the school?

We obviously share our experiences within our community, and I think it’s really made our school stand out in our local area that we are providing our students with something that is so forward-looking and completely different to perhaps more traditional school visits and experiences. I think in that respect it has actually created us a little niche where we are providing our students with something that is completely different.

How did hosting the Chinese visitors impact the school community?
Sandymoor Host Sister School

Gift Exchange at Sandymoor School

I think the impact that hosting has on the whole of the school community is absolutely fantastic because I gave the opportunity for all students to become involved when the Chinese visitors came to our school. Even if the students were not buddied with a student, they had the opportunity to maybe take part in some lessons with them and take them on a tour of the school. Even just chatting to them in the canteen at lunch time gave them that link with somebody from China. Again, the impact across the school in general has been amazing and it did then promote the actual visit back to China. We had more students then coming up and asking can they be on the next trip to China.

How did True Education Partnerships (TEP) support you?

The support is amazing from beginning to end. From the minute we launched the trip and the actual programme with parents and students. Representatives from TEP are here with you in school to help you with presentations, materials and they guide you through the process step-by-step. They’re on the end of the phone as well so anytime you’ve got any queries you can ring them up and they’ll answer you. They are really helpful, and they deal with China on your behalf so really, it’s straight forward, it’s brilliant.

What advice would you give to teachers looking to launch the programme in their school?

One piece of advice really is to go for it. It’s amazing how it enriches experiences of the learning journey that your students go on. It’s much more than academic, it changes their mindset and outlook on life It opens up future career paths for them. I would say offer it to as many students as you can because it’s brilliant.

Would you host and visit China again?

Absolutely. I see this now as a long-term strategy for our school something that is part of our curriculum. Our visit to China and the hosting of the Chinese visitors in the summer term has become part of our school calendar. We want to develop the partnership further we now want to devise some curriculum-based projects that we can develop with our sister school so that it actually becomes embedded in our curriculum and will benefit students across all year groups.