RMS leads European Comenius Project to promote values in Young People Across Europe

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Comenius is an EU-funded initiative to encourage schools across Europe to work together. A successful project submission by Royal Masonic School has resulted in total funding of 175,000 Euros aimed at facilitating cooperation between RMS and six other schools – from Prague, Marseilles, Calabria, Murcia, Copenhagen, Vienna. RMS is the lead school in the project and this project is the only one in Bucks and Herts to have been funded by Comenius.

The project is entitled VIOLA – Values In Our Lives Always – and it builds upon the values-based education programme that is now so firmly embedded at RMS. RMS promotes a particular value each month, ranging from tolerance to participation, compassion to having the courage to challenge oneself. A range of strategies are used by RMS to promote the nine selected values, including assemblies, classroom activities, the rewarding of value-related behaviour through Values Alphas and publishing the values on various items of stationery such as bookmarks.

The rationale behind the project is that, having implemented a ground-breaking Values project within the Co-ordinating School, it was felt that the time was right to collaborate with schools around Europe in order to share the progress made so far, to discover the Values that young people throughout Europe believe are crucial and to formulate a Student Manifesto so that young people can truly aspire to having 'Values In Our Lives Always'.

This Manifesto – like the TED-inspired 'Charter for Compassion' – would be written and agreed upon by the participating schools, and then young people around the world would be encouraged to sign it. We would strive to establish an 'International Day of Values' for which our manifesto would be a trigger for discussion and linchpin for other schools to follow. By doing this we hope to make the world a better place. We do not believe that it is too grandiose to aim for such an outcome.”

In October 2013, 29 teachers from the other schools visited RMS for the first of the school visits, with sessions focusing on how RMS has developed its system of promoting values. The delegates also did lesson observations to see the promotion of values in action and attended a special assembly focused on values where several visitors spoke about why they want to promote values in their schools.

The proposed outcomes of the 2 year project include:

• 'A VIOLA Symphony' - a series of musical pieces based on each of the Values investigated during the course of the project - to be performed & broadcast over the Internet.

• VIOLA web-based video channel established curated by partner schools.

• Student summit & debate (in style of Model United Nations) to debate inclusion of Values within the VIOLA Manifesto.

• Establishment of a 'European VIOLA Day' on 25th March on which participating schools will focus on values in their schools to coincide with the signing of the 'Treaty of Rome'.

• Presentation of project results to date to BETT show in main 1000 seater arena.

In addition to the above, working with these six other schools will allow the forging of links that will last longer than the project itself eg. Spanish classes may do exchanges with the school in Murcia, a choir may go to Vienna or Prague.

'We are all citizens of one world.'

The Comenius Programme is named after Jan Amos Comenius (1592-1670), often considered the father of modern education. It is aimed at schools, colleges and local authorities across Europe, and has two main objectives:

to develop knowledge and understanding among young people and education staff of the diversity of European cultures and languages, and the value of this diversity

to help young people to acquire basic life skills and competences for their personal development, for future employment and for active European citizenship

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