CHILDREN and teachers from a Ryedale village school have become trailblazers in linking with schools in Eastern Europe.

Groups of 10-year-old pupils from Sinnington Primary School have taken part in a British Council-sponsored scheme which has seen them experience life in other countries, including going down a salt mines and riding a horse and cart up mountains.

The trips were organised as part of the Comenius Project and children experienced lessons in Latvia, Romania, Poland and Turkey.

The purpose of the scheme, said headteacher Jill Wells, was to explore gender discrimination through education and culture.

Mrs Wells drew up a programme working with a teacher in Turkey.

She said: “The children got a lot out of the initiative. They learned some words in each of the countries and their visits have resulted in friendships being established.”

Staff and pupils from the host schools have made return visits to Sinnington when the youngsters proudly showed them around their village and took them to York and Whitby.

Mrs Wells said: “During their stay at our school, Sinnington pupils demonstrated the Yorkshire dialect, and sang songs while the recorder group played for them.

“We saw barriers being broken down, and children communicating with each other. It was marvellous.”

One Sinnington pupil said in a briefing note after the visit: “I thought the Europeans would be different but actually they are just the same as us. They liked the same things as us and the same games.”

While the Sinnington school has just 61 pupils, the visitors attend urban schools as large as 500 pupils.

“The project has been a great success,” said Mrs Wells who added that another trip is to take place in February.

The Comenius project is named after Jan Amos Comenius who lived in the 17th century and, said Mrs Wells, is often considered to be the father of modern education.

Its two main objectives are to develop knowledge and understanding among young people and educators, of the diversity of European culture and languages, and to help young people acquire basic life skills and competences for their personal development for future employment and European citizenship.

As a result of the project, Sinnington school is now partnered with schools in Ankara, Turkey; Jelgava in Latvia; Pitesi in Romania and Zywiec in Poland.

“And we also have a partnership with a school much nearer home, at Yarm,” said Mrs Wells.