Learn to Live: Love Actually director Richard Curtis backs our campaign to twin UK schools with refugees

'I have always believed hugely that children can and will change the world'

Learn to Live: Connecting Classrooms initiative aims to link up students from around the world

Love Actually director Richard Curtis has backed The Independent’s call on schools to link pupils with child refugees around the world, as the government unveiled £38m in new funding for the initiative.

Our Learn to Live campaign, with the Evening Standard, has already twinned up four London schools with children in Jordan, Iraq and the Central African Republic.

And it is encouraging all schools across the UK to benefit by signing up to an updated government-funded scheme offering similar opportunities – which received a £38m cash boost today.

The revamped Connecting Classrooms through Global Learning scheme – run by the British Council in partnership with the Department for International Development – aims to reach more than 3 million pupils in the UK and worldwide in countries like Yemen, Burma and Afghanistan over the next three years.

It is hoped that the programme, which will train 60,000 teachers worldwide, will be a two-way exchange allowing both schools in the UK and schools across the world to learn from each other.

Over the next 10 weeks, pupils involved in our Learn to Live campaign will Skype, share lessons and create an art project – and we will document the friendships as they grow.

Mr Curtis, who created Notting Hill and Four Weddings and a Funeral, said: “I have always believed hugely that children can and will change the world.

“So I am a huge supporter of the Learn to Live campaign which puts people in touch across borders, across countries and allows us to understand, love, care for and work out how to change the world with refugee children.”

Our campaign aims to increase empathy and understanding between pupils of all backgrounds and let children whose lives have been devastated by war know that they have not been forgotten.

Mr Curtis told The Independent: “It is so important that one of the things that kids talk about and think about together is how much they have in common and how they can make the world better – rather than it only being about Kanye’s new track that he has dropped.”

Speaking at a primary school in London that has linked up with a refugee camp in Jordan, education secretary Damian Hinds said: “I think the Learn to Live campaign is a great example of doing something very practical to put communities together, to put children in touch with other children.

“There are things that we can learn from the way that education happens in other parts of the world – including in very different circumstances like in Jordan. There are also things that we can help to give to those schools in countries like Jordan, Afghanistan and Yemen. Technology enables it.”

The government-funded scheme will allow schools to apply for funding for visits, pupils will complete shared projects with themes based on the UN’s 17 Global Goals – which include how to solve world hunger, provide clean water and save the environment – and lead community projects.

International development secretary Penny Mordaunt: “We are really helping [children] become active citizens. They have the tools that previous generations didn’t. They have got better connectivity. They have got the internet. This is about teaching them how they can do that.”

To mark the launch of the programme, Mr Curtis, who co-founded Comic Relief and worked with the UN on Global Goals, led an assembly at St Joseph’s RC Primary School in Putney, south London, alongside ministers.

Teachers and pupils were joined in the school hall via FaceTime by 11-year-old Palestinian refugees studying at their twinned school in the Marqa refugee camp in Jordan.

The primary school children sang a song in Arabic and English to their new friends, and shared how the twinning has helped them learn more about the world. “I think it’s really amazing that we get to FaceTime them,” Sophie, 10, said.

Dylan, 10, believes that if all children learned about and lived by the ethical principles outlined in the UN Global Goals, that within years “the world will be a better place”.

At the assembly, the Love Actually director gave a recent example of a 10-year-old girl in north London who collected a thousand signatures against plastic straws in Starbucks to help the environment.

He told the pupils: “It is really hard when you are young like you guys to know how you can make a difference. But you must never think in life that the world is bad or that you cannot make a difference to it, because I absolutely promise that you can. This is just a special way you can do that.”

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