SHOES in the classroom have been kicked into touch for some pupils after teachers took part in a fact-finding trip to Finland.

A trio of staff from Eastburn Junior & Infant School visited a partner school and kindergarten in Oulu.

And one of the tips picked-up, now replicated back home, related to footwear.

"Children in Finnish schools spend most of the day without their shoes on!" said Mrs Ruth McMeekin, who took part in the week-long trip.

"This seemed to make the classrooms and corridors a much quieter and calmer place.

"My class subsequently experimented with having 'shoe-free days' and following its success, the idea has been extended across school, making learning more relaxed and purposeful."

Many of the school's 204 pupils, and teachers, are involved.

The Finland trip was staged as part of the Erasmus+ programme, which enables staff and children to visit other European countries for studies or training.

Whilst there, the Eastburn team – which also included language specialist and eTwinning ambassador Diana Linford and colleague Mary Fox – explored differences and similarities between the two countries' educational systems and shared expertise.

The trio examined how maths is taught across year groups and how children learn to read and write in Finnish as well as in English, French and Spanish.

Mrs Linford said: "The Finnish education model has long been regarded as an excellent system for early-years learning so we spent time in a local kindergarten.

"Whilst away, we were able to talk to the pupils back home using Skype video calling – this gave them an opportunity to share directly in the experience.

"Following the visit, the relationship with the school in Oulu will continue to have opportunities to develop as both schools are engaged in a Christmas eTwinning art project, involving classes through key stage two."

The placement was among a limited number in the latest allocation under the Erasmus+ scheme.

"As Britain prepares for Brexit the significance of gaining Erasmus+ funding is more important than ever this year," added Mrs Linford.

"There may be fewer opportunities in the future."

Eastburn Junior & Infant School has enjoyed huge success with eTwinning projects in recent years, winning national awards.

Last summer, both it and Steeton Primary picked-up accolades at the 12th annual British Council eTwinning UK conference in Nottingham.

Eastburn was highly commended for its Wojtek the Soldier Bear project.

The initiative, run with a school in south-west Poland, was based around the book, Wojtek the Bear: Polish War Hero.