The UK pilot of the European Ambassador Schools project got underway this afternoon, with our first online training session for the first ever cohort of Senior Ambassadors from the UK.

We were joined by EPAS Senior Ambassador, Viki Malcolm, of the King’s Hospital School, Dublin, Ireland. Viki shared some excellent advice and suggestions from her experience of running EPAS at her school. You can watch the training here:

Key points from Viki’s talk:

  • Projects they’ve been able to get involved with:
    • Euroscola.
    • MEPs in the classroom – being online has really helped that. Had all 4 Dublin MEPS plus a Minister of State for European Affairs. Each one was just 20 minutes, but shared very different perspectives.
    • Europe Day: organised a multicultural festival. They’ve had food fairs, language tables in the past. This year it’s a European recipe e-book – lots of students contributing recipes from around Europe.
    • Model European Council – public speaking, confidence for the students.
    • ‘Bridge the Pond’ – working with a school in Virginia, USA through the EPLO in Washington DC. Created projects about issues of importance to the students, such as climate change.
    • Lots of work with other schools: King’s Hospital School would be very keen to twin with UK EPAS participants.
    • European Youth Seminar – working virtually with a school in Spain.
  • How they choose Junior Ambassadors:
    • Some schools select students who they feel would do a good job.
    • Viki sets it up as a job interview, with clear criteria and an application process.
  • When EPAS activities are run:
    • At King’s Hospital School they slot it into timetabled student development time.
    • Other schools do it as an extra-curricular activity at lunch or after school.
  • Communication
    • Make sure you use Twitter as a quick and simple way to get your message out and tell people what you’re doing. King’s Hospital School’s EU studies Twitter: https://twitter.com/kheustudies
    • There is a great network of teachers working on EPAS in Ireland and across the EU who work together and support one another.

Resources to help with running activities in your school

Examples of EPAS participant schools’ social media channels:

A great resource for setting up debates about issues of importance to EU and UK citizens: ­https://futureu.europa.eu

Find out more about the LUX prize, a great way to share European art and culture: ­https://luxaward.eu/en

Questions asked by participants

Q: Are Junior Ambassadors only in post for one year?

A: No, students can be involved for as long as they, and the school, would like. Involver recommend that two years is very useful, so there is a rolling overlap between cohorts. The first year they are learning how to run things and the second year they are passing on that knowledge to a new cohort.

Q: Do Junior Ambassadors have to be politics students?

A: No, any student with an interest can be involved. The more diverse the group, the better!

Q: What types of projects have the Junior Ambassador been most involved with?

A: Projects where they link with students of the same age in other schools and run activities with them. Also where they get to express their own ideas, like the European Youth Seminar.

Q: Are all of these programmes open to UK schools?

A: Yes, the European Parliament has made a commitment that all of their youth programmes will be open to UK schools. The one exception is eTwinning, as this is part of Erasmus+, which the UK government has decided not to pay into.

Q: As the UK doesn’t have MEPs, who could UK schools bring in?

A: As everything is being done online, bringing in MEPs from overseas is very simple, schools may want to bring in MEPs with expertise or interests in topics relevant to their curriculum, e.g. MEPs who sit on committees such as Agriculture and Rural Development, International Trade or Human Rights. The EPLO can also arrange visits (virtual or in-person) from EU ambassadors – both the ambassadors from EU 27 member states and the EU’s ambassador to the UK. If you have students in your class who are EU citizens, you can invite MEPs from the countries they are linked to.

Q: How much time does it take as a Senior Ambassador (staff member) and Junior Ambassador (student)?

A: The activities are run by the Junior Ambassador, with Senior Ambassadors supporting, so the time commitment for Senior Ambassadors isn’t that great. Junior Ambassadors’ time commitment will vary depending on what project they are involved in. For example:

  • Setting up and running a social media channel: a small amount of time, but over a long period – a few minutes per week.
  • Setting up and running a debate between MEPs and a group of students, or setting up a LUX film screening: more intense work over a short period of time to communicate with the EPLO and advertise to peers: 20 minutes a day for a couple of weeks.