1st July 2021

Sir Joseph Williamson’s Mathematical School in Kent has been awarded the British Council’s prestigious International School Award in recognition of its work to bring the world into the classroom.

The International School Award is a badge of honour for schools that do outstanding work in international education, such as through links with partner schools overseas. Fostering an international dimension in the curriculum is at the heart of the British Council’s work with schools, so that young people gain the cultural understanding and skills they need to live and work as global citizens.

We have submitted an Action Plan for the reaccreditation in November 2020 which was accepted by the British Council.   We are now in the process of submitting our Impact Evaluation for the reaccreditation for 2021 – 2024.  

As part of the Action Plan we plan to carry out a minimum of 10 curriculum-based international learning activities covering a variety of subjects and involving most of the pupils in the school from Years 7 to 13. The international activities are developed over the course of the academic year and embedded effectively into the school’s curriculum which also bring an aspect of sustainability into our international work. Three of the activities are done in partnership with partner schools in other countries; these activities are:

  • Renewable energy sources. The main aim of this project is to understand what renewable energy sources are and how can they be used more widely and more efficiently.  
  • Promoting communication and team building. This promotes the importance of working alongside other cultures and learning to communicate in new ways, including language.
  • Gender equality. With the help of this project, we want to put the debate on gender equality once more in the spotlight.

The activity which contain a foreign language element is:

  • Year 7 – French Pas de Calais visit, Year 9 – French Christmas; customs and cultural awareness and Year 10 – French visit to Paris. Students learn about French customs and culture and compare them to their own.

All the activities above have elements of cultural exchanges. In addition to the 4 activities mentioned above, there are 6 more activities with international learning elements, details of which are summarised below:

Promoting communication and team building

This Erasmus project working alongside 4 countries. With an increasing amount of discussion on the rise of nationalism and the breakdown of the European Union, we brought our students together to promote teamwork and sharing skills of communication. Pupils built robots together, learnt to play tag rugby, led debates on European Affairs and learnt different cultural dances.

Activities are selected on the basis of their potential to enhance pupils’ communication skills while promoting digital citizenship as well. Research tasks are assigned on topics which are expected to be motivating for teenagers, such as social issues, everyday adolescent life and problems, personal interests or passions.

One of the focuses will be to enhance the so-called “accountable talk”, to formulate guidelines for group and class discussion and develop assessment rubrics, which will help pupils to evaluate their own and others’ performances. It is hoped that at a later stage in this project, pupils will have the opportunity to talk about their perspectives on a range of issues with classmates and students around the world via online pupil communities such as Youth Voices.

The pupils will also be guided to master their public speaking skills and will learn about business-related communication and how to write a blog. All the activities will be integrating part of class practice, especially in those subjects such as English or Italian, which are strongly based on a communicative approach.

Millennium Development Goals/Sustainable Development Goals, and Plate Tectonics

In Year 9, students look at what the UN Millennium Development Goals are and what they set out to achieve.  Students consider how successful they were by their completion in 2015, and the reasons why some areas were/were not successful in their mission to improve development.  Following the MDGs, students then consider how the new measures ‘Sustainable Development Goals’ differ to the MDGs and how they also focus on improvement levels of development.  Students look at how Birth Rates, Death Rates and other development indicators (including social influences like religion and a lack of contraception) influence population structures in richer and poorer countries (e.g. the UK compared with Kenya).

Students also study Plate Tectonics. Within this, they consider why hazards occur and why there are differences in the effects (economic, social and environmental) across different countries (also linking to development).  Students learn examples of earthquakes, tsunamis and volcanoes and make comparisons between the events.  Students are also able to consider how countries may attempt to predict, protect and plan for future hazards but some areas of the world are restricted in their ability to do so due to lack of knowledge and understanding, funding and expertise.

Similar topics are also studied at A Level Geography.

Studying the history of different countries

As part of the history curriculum, there is a focus on the history of different countries, such as at KS4, Russia 1917-45 and the Cold War in Europe and Asia 1945-73. The pupils also look at the different political, socio-economic structures of those countries. Studying international diplomacy give the opportunity for the students to learn about the UN, Yalta, Potsdam etc. This has been linked by studying empire and migration, looking at the global impacts of Britain in these respects and vice versa, situating British History in the last 1000 years in a global context. The students are given the opportunity to learn more about the current state of the countries and their cultures by discussing it during lessons, writing essays as part of HW assignments and producing displays for the classrooms.

At KS3 pupils study the important European and global events, including the Reformation, the growth and global impact of the British Empire, and the events and impact of the French Revolution. They study the Holocaust, exploring its origins within Europe and Germany and its impacts and global legacy.

Y12 students study the political, social and economic changes in Germany 1900-91. Y13 students study the history of Italy and the growth of fascism. The students will conduct extensive research about the causes of WW1, focusing on the transnational nature of pre-war events, requiring students to engage with historical analysis from historians from a range of nationalities.

Young People’s Place in The World

The whole of the KS3 (Years 7-9) curriculum for Life Skills, Religious Education, PSHE and Citizenship focuses on Young People’s place in the World. Students complete a unit of study on Islam. As well as considering the beliefs and practices of Islam, they focus on the impact Islam has had on our World, in terms of mathematical and scientific advancement. For homework, pupils research and create a model of a Mosque. They also consider the challenges young Muslims might face in practicing their religion in a multi-faith or secular society. The students will read a book by an Islamic author and all pupils meet the author to discuss her faith, background and experiences. The school has strong connections with the Nasir Mosque in Gillingham and aim to take students to visit and discuss the activities that happen there and their challenges. At the end of the Year, students compare and contrast the similarities and differences found in a range of religious festivals and pilgrimages, contrasting the beliefs and practises found in these across the World.

In KS4, Year 10 pupils have the opportunity to visit a local gurdwara and talk with a member of the local Sikh community, where they discuss the movement of Sikhs around the world.  Pupils look at a variety of political and religious figures from across the world and consider how both their culture and religion have influenced their actions and decisions.  Cultural awareness and diversity continues to be a significant theme. 

Year 7 – French Pas de Calais visit / virtual visit Year 9 – French Christmas; customs and cultural awareness and Year 10 – French visit / virtual visit to Paris

In May we take 75 Year 7 pupils to France for a residential trip. During the trip pupils undertake language based activities with emphasis on vocabulary each day which involve them asking and replying to questions to native speakers. The activities undertaken are all delivered in French with a student selected to translate where necessary. Activities include:

  • Market visit in Boulogne
  • Visit to Boulangerie where students undertake a workshop making croissants
  • Escargot tasting session

Sporting activities delivered and supervised by French monitors to include toboganning and tree nets Visit to a traditional boat maker in the St Malo region and a trip on the boat down the canal with guided tour in French.

  • Bowling 
  • Trip to Wellington War tunnels in Arras
  • Nausicca aquarium visit

In December each year we look at the French customs and traditions surrounding Christmas. As part of this we offer the chance for Year 9 students to visit a Christmas market in Lille, France. During the trip students visit the Lille Christmas Market, undertake language based tasks which involve asking for directions, ordering food and paying for an item in the market. Students undertake a town trail which involves them following directions in French to particular areas in the town. 

In February we offer the opportunity for KS4 (Year 10) students to visit Paris. Whilst there they undertake many language based tasks to make use of their language skills: ordering food, asking for the bill, etc.

Studying International Relations

Fifty percent of the Politics Advanced Level course is about International Relations. This was an option chosen by the department instead of studying the United States of America. The department deliberately decided to provide students with a broader base of knowledge of Politics on a global scale. Students look at institutions such as the UN, NATO, the IMF, WTO, G7, G20, the EU and evaluate how effective they are by looking at strengths and weaknesses of all these institutions in tackling global issues

The department is planning to conduct a range of debating activities within the school as part of the house completions as well as competing with local schools.  Local MPs will be invited to take part in the debates and act as judges. The Politics department is also actively engaged with the school’s Erasmus programme, helping to organise debating activities with recent visiting schools from Latvia, Portugal, Italy and Denmark.

Cross cultural studies in psychology

As part of the Psychology Advanced Level course the students make frequent references to cultural differences, for example cultural variations in attachment style comparing attachment styles in the United States of America versus other cultures, including China and other collectivist cultures, where attachment style is different.  Students undertake independent research looking at the parenting styles of different cultures such as the United Kingdom / United States of America versus China, and prepare a presentation on this topic to share with peers. As part of the research the students are expected to look at the history of the countries they are looking at and their cultures and the impact on the attachment styles.

How mental health disorders are interpreted from a cultural perspective and this might impact upon how people are treated or how their behaviour is interpreted.  Students research a culture bound syndrome and share that with peers in class discussions.

The students will also look at comparison of recidivism rates in the United Kingdom and Scandinavia.  They will conduct an extensive research into how different countries interview / profile criminals.  The students will take the opportunity to look at the cultural differences and impact on these differences and will present findings to peers.

Studying the history of Pi and i

Pupils in Y7 will carry out a study about the history of Pi (π) and produce various posters and a large collective one, which is displayed in classrooms and the corridor of the mathematics block. This has been a very popular and exciting activity, which Y7 and their teachers thoroughly enjoy undertaking. This includes studying how the ancient civilizations such as the Babylonians, the Egyptians and the Greek calculated the value of π. Their research includes the study of the history of the ancient civilisations and the modern countries they represent now such as Iraq, Egypt and Greece and their cultures. They also explore how modern computers can be used to calculate the value of π to almost an infinite number of decimal places.

Due to the popularity of the above activity we introduced another project which is about the history of π and ‘i’ (-1) including complex numbers. Imaginary numbers fascinate the Y12 students who study A Level Further Mathematics. The students will learn that the use of imaginary numbers was not widely accepted until the work of Leonhard Euler (1707–1783) and Carl Friedrich Gauss (1777–1855).  The geometric significance of complex numbers as points in a plane was first described by Caspar Wessel (1745–1818). This includes studying the history and the culture of the courtiers where the mathematicians come from. They also learn about the applications of complex numbers in real life and will create posters and PP Presentations about their findings.

Renewable Energy to Save our Planet: An Ethics for the Citizens of Tomorrow

This Erasmus project is carried out in collaboration with a school in Italy. The students will focus on what renewable energy sources are and how they can be used more widely and more efficiently.

While renewable energy is often thought of as a new technology, harnessing nature’s power has long been used for heating, transportation, lighting, and more. The students will look at the progress made by both countries, UK and Italy, in this area and how to find innovative and less-expensive ways to capture and retain wind and solar energy. Our students will make a 3D model of the main school block and find strategies on how to make it more energy efficient such as by using solar panels, improving installations and comparing their findings to that of Italian students.

As part of the collaborative work and to deepen students’ knowledge and understanding of this topic, a professor from Genoa University will conduct a seminar which we will link with through Skype.  During our 5-day visit in February 2020 to the school in Italy our students will collaboratively work with their counterpart discussing the progress made by students on both sides and how to improve the techniques used. Similar collaboration work will take place when the Italian team visits our school in April 2020. We will continue working collaboratively through emails and will upload some of the work in the eTwinning website of the BC. The findings will be shared with a wider group of students in both schools.

Gender equality

As of 2017, gender equality is one of the sustainable development goals of the United Nations. Both

the UN and the European Union have had a great impact on gender equality and non-discrimination

Policies. This Erasmus project will strengthen the European dimension in the participating schools as it involves five distinctly different countries in Europe. During this academic year, the students and teachers would work together on different online platforms and digital tools, which would significantly improve their ICT skills.

With the help of this project, we want to put the debate on gender equality once more in the spotlight. Gender roles, the gender gap and human rights have been current topics in the media lately. Gender stereotypes and gender identities outside the gender binary have also become prominent topics. Our students are in a vulnerable age and prejudices and discrimination based on their gender can damage their health and affect their success in school. Many prejudices could be eliminated via education. Among other things, we need this project to be able to widen the view how teachers and students perceive gender and be more aware of gender stereotypes. It is crucial that there is a safe place for young people to discuss these issues. This project is needed in order to be able to create a safe environment where the students and teachers can reflect on their experiences and concerns as well as be educated on this topic.

The ISA encourages and supports schools to develop:

  • An international ethos embedded throughout the school
  • A majority of pupils within the school impacted by and involved in international work
  • Collaborative curriculum-based work with a number of partner schools
  • Curriculum-based work across a range of subjects
  • Year-round international activity
  • Involvement of the wider community

For further details please contact:

Dr Ismael L Karam BSc PGCE MSc PhD

Assistant Head Teacher

Director of Mathematics

International School Coordinator 

Sir Joseph Williamson’s Mathematical School

Maidstone Road


Kent ME1 3EL

Tel: 01634 844008 (school)

Fax: 01634 818303

Email: ismael.karam@sjwms.org.uk