An Education Liaison Project

This idea progressed in summer 2021 with letters sent by the Chairman of Wycombe For Fair Trade to secondary & grammar schools in High Wycombe addressed to the Heads of Geography, Sociology, & Business Studies, with the objective of establishing a working relationship with a school in our Fair Trade Partner Town of Grecia in Costa Rica.

A reply, received in October 2021, from Ms. Barker, then Head of Geography at Highcrest Academy in High Wycombe, who invited me to a teachers’ meeting in November 2021. Simultaneously, the Sustainability Manager at CoopeVictora, contacted the lead teacher, Laura Chaves, at the Colegio Experimental Bilingue de Grecia to enquire about connecting with a UK school.

Head teachers at Highcrest Academy were very enthusiastic about a potential link, citing many benefits including broadening pupils’ cultural understanding and perceptions by sharing lessons. The Highcrest principal gave his total backing to the project. The first joint Teams geography lesson took place in December 2021, with further shared classes occurring in March and April 2022, after the Colegio’s long summer break.

Pupils from both learning institutions seemed engaged and interested, and later even instigated their own independent email & Zoom “pen-pal” groups. Fair Trade is part of the Geography & Sociology GCSE & “A” level curricula, but there are plans to introduce Fairtrade to younger year pupils. During Fairtrade Fortnight in February 2022, Mike King delivered 6 x 15-minute Fair Trade themed school assemblies to all pupils about the philosophy of Fair Trade and how small farming communities are benefiting in Africa, Asia, and Latin America. This provides small-scale farmers with access to world markets, receiving guaranteed fixed prices for their products, while obtaining a Fairtrade social Premium which could be invested in local community health, infrastructure, or education projects.

Ambassador Rafael Ortiz Fabrega, from the Embassy of Costa Rica in London presenting the Mayor of High Wycombe, Councilor Arif Hussain, with a Plaque from the Mayor of Grecia

A total of 995 pupils were engaged over the week, at the end of which, I was interviewed for a Highcrest internal TV programme. Highcrest ran a “Fairtrade Tuck Shop” & organized a competition involving pupils designing a Fairtrade chocolate bar wrapper containing one sentence catch-phrase to entice customers to buy the product. In 2023, Highcrest Academy applied to the Fairtrade Foundation to be registered as a FairAware school.

During Fair Trade Fortnight, on Monday 6th March 2023, Highcrest Academy hosted HE, Ambassador Rafael Ortiz Fabrega, from the Embassy of Costa Rica in London who presented the Mayor of High Wycombe, Councilor Arif Hussain, with a Plaque from the Mayor of Grecia, stating that Grecia and High Wycombe were sister Fair Trade Towns. Mayor Arif Hussain then graciously donated the plaque to Highcrest Academy in recognition of their sterling work in promoting Fair Trade in the curriculum, as part of school life, and because of the establishment and development of their teaching and cultural links with the Colegio Experimental Bilingue de Grecia, in Costa Rica. The plaque is now inserted on the school awards wall in the main foyer.

The plaque mounted on Highcreat Academy’s Awards Wall

Afterwards, Ambassador Ortiz officially launched the Grecia – High Wycombe Fair Trade Towns Partnership Celebration Coffee, the culmination of a year-long project. There were speeches of thanks followed by the all-important Celebration coffee tasting with “pan de elote “, a Costa Rican sweet corncake. The coffee and the dessert met with universal approval by 60 invited pupils and a dozen teachers.

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