Earlier in the year we were honoured to welcome His Excellency Park Minshik, the South Korean Minister for Patriotism and Veterans Affairs. He awarded Stroud High the honour of being the South Korean government's first Global Academy School. The visit celebrated the ongoing exchange we have had with Hanbit High School, in the city of Paju in South Korea, since 2016.
In April, I was privileged to visit Paju with a delegation from Gloucestershire. This included the Deputy Lord Lieutenant of Gloucestershire, the CEO of G-First Local Enterprise Partnership, representatives from the Soldiers of Gloucestershire Museum and senior figures from the Honourable Company of Gloucestershire.
Stroud High School’s link to the area is based on the relationship between Paju and Gloucestershire after the sacrifice of soldiers from the county at the Battle of Imjin River in 1951. This is a relationship forged in the honour and sacrifice of those who fought for freedom in South Korea. It is a global partnership that is being built by educational institutions and businesses, the legacy of the appreciation of the people of Paju for the sacrifice of the Glorious Glosters. Our school is proud to be at the forefront of this partnership.
During my visit I was privileged to attend meetings with the Mayor, Local Council and Chamber of Commerce, as well as finally, after cancelled visits because of the pandemic, being able to visit Hanbit High School. I was able to talk about the success of our exchange and hear the plans for the forthcoming visit of Stroud High Students to Paju this month. I was toured around the English Village where our students will be teaching elementary age Korean students. They are going to have an amazing visit.
We want to help develop this link, not just for Stroud High School students, but for other secondary and primary schools in the county. On my final day in Korea, the team at Hanbit High hosted a conference inviting schools to come and hear about the exchange. One school travelled 2 hours to hear our story and show interest in finding out more about Gloucestershire. It was great to hear how the language and cultural exchange brings young people together, bridging 5000 miles online in the first place, and then with the opportunity for real life visits. No mean feat. This has been our journey with Hanbit for the last 7 years – despite the pandemic we have still managed 4 visits between the two schools alongside many online interactions. We are now working with the International Partnerships Team in Paju to support several Gloucestershire schools to create even more links between the young people of both regions.
Not forgetting the origins of the exchange, I was able to attend a memorial service commemorating the Battle of Imjin River 72 years ago. It was attended by Ambassadors and regional politicians, with one of our Trustees, Chris Ryland, honoured by laying a wreath as a mark of respect.
So, this week 30 students and 4 staff will fly to South Korea – they will be staying in the homes of their exchange partners who they have been connecting with since September 2022, as part of an ongoing Turing Project. They will be teaching English, visiting the area including the Glorious Glosters Memorial and the Demilitarized Zone. They will be performing in front the Governor of Paju, the Mayor, the Ambassadors for the UK and Thailand, as well as attending a banquet provided by the Minister of Patriots and Veterans Affairs. More importantly, they will be building friendships and working together, showing how global friendship can be the legacy of honour, sacrifice, and the fight for freedom.
Mr McShane, Headteacher