Thursday, November 16th, 2017.

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 IES Gines Perez Chirino in Murcia, Spain, and RSG Enkhuizen in Enkhuizen, 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 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?”