Firming up sister school relations

Skene Street Specialist School is planning a trip to China in the new year, in an attempt to firm up sister school relations with the Yiwu Xingguang Experimental School in Zhejiang Province.

The visit is being led by Clyde Humphries, who has been working with Skene Street Specialist School over the past few years in developing their sister school relationship with the Experimental School.

The sister school relationship was made official in October last year, when a delegation, including Skene Street principal Robyn Anyon, travelled to China and signed a memorandum of understanding.

The agreement aims to create closer ties between the schools and promote mutual understanding and cultural awareness between Australia and China.

It is believed the relationship could be one of the first special education setting partnerships with China, if not in Victoria, but Australia.

Mr Humphries has visited China on several occasions along with his wife Lois, a teacher at Skene Street, but he is hoping more stakeholders will take up the opportunity to visit the Yiwu Xingguang Experimental School in Zhejiang Province in the new year to further strengthen the relationship.

Lois Humphries was in China again earlier this year as a follow up from the previous tour and visited the Yiwu Xingguang Experimental School, describing the experience as a wonderful opportunity.

"It was an opportunity for me to visit the school and share ideas with teachers," Mrs Humphries said.

A lot of the students at the Yiwu Experimental School are deaf, while there is another group of students with intellectual disabilities.

Mrs Humphries said this made the two schools very similar in many ways and would ensure the successful sharing of resources and ideas.

The next China trip, planned for April next year, will see an invitation extended to teachers, staff, family and friends of the school, along with anyone in the community who is eager to visit a small part of this intriguing country.

An itinerary has been prepared that will encompass Shanghai, but also towns and attractions off the main foreign tourist routes. Numbers are being kept under 20, so Mr Humphries said bookings and deposits need to be in by January 19 to secure a place.

"The theme of the trip is Chinese Tea and education," Mr Humphries said.

"Tea culture is huge in China and some of the places the group will visit are not easily found in package tours."

Mr Humphries said one of the more unusual sites the group will visit is where the Chinese 'Tea Bible' was written. This is a magnificent teak structure and museum, which winds its way through a bamboo forest. A silk factory, a teapot town, temples, pandas, a bamboo museum and river cruises from boats to sampans are all included.

Mr Humphries said the tour was planned for the April school holidays to enable teachers to travel.

"Interest has already been shown from other teachers in the region, as there will be visits to two Chinese Special Schools on the itinerary," he said.

Mr Humphries also said it will be spring in China and the gardens they will be visiting will be in full bloom giving the green thumb brigade a chance to see some magnificent displays.

Having been to China many times over the past ten years Mr. Humphries said that he always comes back having discovered something new and exciting from the trip. He also stated that it is one of the few countries where he feels safer to walk at night.

People interested in the visit to China in April should contact Clyde Humphries at cohconsultant@me.com or phone 0427 583 577 for an itinerary.

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