STUDENTS have welcomed a group of Russian visitors in a project designed to explore the educational differences between East and West.
Five pupils from Moscow and St Petersburg will spend up to six weeks living with host families from St Michael’s Academy, Billingham, to help experience life and culture at a British school.
The project, part of a Russian Immersion Programme run by Most Education, will see the five students, aged between 13 and 15, shadow pupils from their host family during everyday lessons, to help improve and advance their English skills.
Supply ICT teacher at St Michael’s Michael Briton, who helped to arrange the visit, said: “This is the first time that St Michael’s has taken part in a youth immersion programme.
“As a supply teacher I have arranged similar projects in several other schools and thought that St Michael’s would be an ideal choice as it is a very friendly, welcoming place.
“Over the years I have made many contacts, both in Russian and Chinese schools, and it is my long term aim to eventually be able to bring students from China over to St Michael’s and to take pupils from here to China and Russia.”
Three of the students Anastasia Pravikova, 14, who is living with the family of Megan Ford, 14, Magomedarip Shaykhmagomedov, 13, who is being hosted by 13-year-old Wesley Twizell’s family and Zakhar Pidzhakov, 15, who is staying with George Bailey, 15, are enjoying their second visit to the North East having taken part in previous exchanges.
For Nikita Karzeev, 14, and Danil Tkachyk, 13, it is their first time in the UK
“There are a lot of differences between schools here in England and back home in Russia,” said Nikita, who is living with the families of Ethan Hamilton, 15 and Sarah Bradley, 14, during his visit.
“Russian schools are very high, usually five or more storeys, but here they are very flat. We also get a lot more homework, every day three or four hours, so I like schools in England much better as there is not so much work to do after school.”
Danil Tkachyk, 13, who is staying with the Readle family, whose triplets Dean, Fay and Liam attend St Michael’s, said: “The food in school here is really good. It is like the best café food that we get in Moscow.
“The teachers are also a lot nicer and there is a lot more interaction in the lessons than we have at home. I think I would rather stay here at St Michael’s than go back to my own school.”
As well as learning opportunities the project has also provided the chance for lasting friendships between the students.
“I have really enjoyed having Nikita stay with my family,” said Sarah. “He has been coming with me to my gym and running practice outside of school and has been trying to teach me a few words in Russian.”
Megan Ford, 14, added: “I wanted to be involved in the project as it was something different. Anastasia has been telling me a lot about her country and when I am older I’d love to travel, especially to Russia.”