News about the excellence of Edmond Public Schools is getting around — around the globe that is.

Representatives from the United Kingdom toured two Edmond Public Schools sites Wednesday, part of an early childhood exchange program facilitated by the State Department of Education.

Based on recommendations by Gov. Brad Henry, the Education Department and EPS officials, the dignitaries visited pre-K classes at Clyde Howell Early Childhood Center and Northern Hills Elementary School.

Oklahoma has high standards and is ranked No. 1 in the nation for access to pre-K, said Ramona Paul, assistant state superintendent.

“They’re doing wonderful things in Edmond and our guests wanted to see the best,” Paul said.

Lynne Rowley, EPS’ elementary education executive director, said Clyde Howell’s recent change to a strictly Pre-K site was a drawing point.

Northern Hills is a U.S. Department of Education “Blue Ribbon School.”

Bridget Bennett, the UK’s Early Years and Childcare Development Manager, develops and implements early education within the private and voluntary sector.

Lonica Vanclay is an administrator for Sure Start, a program within the UK’s 10-year child care strategy.

Celia Gardiner is the health improvement manager for Early Years at Health Scotland, the country’s national health improvement organization.

After the tour, the visitors said they were impressed by what they had observed. They said they recognized differences and common occurrences.

“It was a great opportunity to come and see how you do things in the United States because I would have had no idea before coming here what was happening,” Gardiner said.

Bennett said the trip was about a free exchange of ideas. She said she had heard a lot of positives about America’s pre-K programs. Bennett said she was impressed by the quality and the commitment of the teaching.

Both America and the U.K. strive to help children become competent and independent learners, Bennett said. And children are alike in different parts of the world, she said.

Gardiner said the specific way the two countries do things is largely similar but maybe not always identical.

Edmond classrooms are more spacious and somewhat newer than those in the United Kingdom, Vanclay said.

Vanclay said she was impressed with the level of commitment displayed by the teachers and the warmth they expressed toward the children.

Vanclay said she recognized the creative and the nurturing atmosphere in the classrooms, which are slightly more structured. Vanclay also was impressed with the media centers, and how they were stocked.

Vanclay said she had seen some things she would like to implement in the UK.

Next step will be to absorb what she observed and discuss it with colleagues, Gardiner said. Decisions will have to be made about what to do with the information, she said.

Bennett said she has seen some things she would like to implement. Back home she will write a report which will be used to continue the process.

Bill Powell, Clyde Howell principal, said the recognition is reflective of a team effort. District personnel worked to get the site reopened in time for the fall and faculty have worked hard along the way, Powell said.

During their visit, the dignitaries also toured the Oklahoma City National Memorial, the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Hall of Fame and Norman Public Schools.

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