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Japan Conference for Schools, 2011

On 14th October 2011, over 50 teachers and local authority advisors attended the Japan Conference for Schools, held at the Embassy of Japan in London. Co-organised by the Embassy of Japan, the Japan Foundation and the Japan Society, the event was a fantastic chance for attendees to network and share practical ideas about projects for introducing Japanese into their schools or to enhance their existing Japan-related activities.

Participants were welcomed to the Embassy by Minister Hiroshi Suzuki, the director of the Japan Information and Culture Centre. This was followed by a poignant talk by Lynne Parmenter from Manchester Metropolitan University’s Institute of Education about the ‘Voices from Fukushima’ project. This project, funded by the Japan Foundation London, aims to develop and pilot a resource pack for teaching about Japan at Key Stage 2. It is a collaboration with teachers and children in Fukushima to present their experiences of the earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disaster, their relocation and recovery, their everyday lives and their dreams for the future. The idea is to go beyond the negative images of disaster to show children a more balanced picture of recovery, resilience and ordinary life in post-disaster regions. 

Regarding the presentation, Bernedette Fellowes-Prynne from Chopwell Primary School said:‘The presentation by Lynne Parmenter was so inspiring and reinforced my feelings that children need to go back to learning about the wider Japanese culture and not focus on the recent events in the north.’

Following this, participants separated into small discussion groups and could choose between ten topics such as ‘Cross Curricular Japanese,’ ‘Practical Teaching Ideas’ or ‘Primary Focus.’ Throughout the day, all attendees had the chance to visit four of these sessions to find out about the topics that were most useful for their schools or their own personal development. 

Alan Greaves from The Wavell School commented that:‘It was great to have discussions in smaller groups. Four workshops with four different leaders with contrasting styles led to very productive sessions and a chance to ask questions in a relaxed, informal setting.’

After a delicious bento lunch box, attendees viewed a video created by Christopher Purvis from the Japan Society on his recent trip to Japan’s Tohoku region, which was devastated by the Great Eastern Japan Earthquake and resulting tsunami six months ago. This was followed by an inspiring talk from Liz Gil about Wearhead Primary School’s award winning partnership with Amanuma School in Japan, which they have visited twice.

All in all, it was a fantastic day. Mary Hunt from St Mary’s RC Primary School observed that it was a ‘wonderful chance to find out what everyone else is doing… I enjoyed all the sessions I attended.’

Thank you to all the participants, speakers and the other organisers for making the conference such a success. We hope to see you again next year!