What are International School Partnerships?

An international school partnership is a global link between two schools in different countries and often on completely different sides of the world.

The partnership extends to expanding and improving education and career opportunities in both schools, through various cultural awareness projects, student exchange programmes and pedagogy exchanges. Through a close, committed, ongoing relationship, the two schools can hope to not only provide fascinating global opportunities for their students, but also improve their own school policies and teaching approaches to benefit the whole school community.

Some international school partnerships are established directly school-to-school, but in most cases they are established with the help of a third-party organisation such as International Schools Partnership, British Council or True Education Partnerships.

To establish an international link with another school, headteachers of both schools must be able to come to an agreement about what they each expect from the partnership. Because the partnership should be mutually beneficial, it’s better that schools are on the same page about their expectations so they can work together towards a common goal.

Headteachers or leaders should communicate regarding the time they’re able to dedicate to the partnership; the time difference between the two countries and what a typical day looks like in each school; the level of internet access and other communications, and any language/cultural barriers that could present obstacles along the way (as well as strategies to overcome them).

Benefits of International School Partnerships

Running a school is difficult at the best of times, and this is made even harder when one doesn’t have access to further support, advice or funding.

This is the reality for many schools around the world, who strive to provide global opportunities for their students but may feel restricted by resources or lack of knowledge.

School partnerships help to break down cultural barriers and crush stereotypes, allowing students to grow into self-aware, well-rounded individuals that will later forge successful careers and contribute positively to society.

The modern world is rapidly changing, bringing with it more pressing issues and greater obstacles surrounding technology and sustainability. It is only right then, that our education sector adapts to reflect these changes. However, the rate of change required is only possible by looking outside of pre-existing national curriculum structures and joining forces with other alternative perspectives.

International school partnerships are a huge way to obtain this new insight and stay abreast of teaching and learning methods around the world. With the ability to open up multiple doors, an overseas school partnership offers many benefits for students, teachers and the whole school community.

Benefits for Students

  • Cultural learning opportunities – The opportunity to meet with like-minded peers from around the world equips students with the knowledge and cultural tolerance needed to thrive in an increasingly global world. Visiting another country or hosting international students has also been shown to build confidence, decision-making and self-awareness.
  • Learn about global issues – International school partnerships provide students with a platform to learn first-hand about serious issues affecting others around the world, and their potential solutions.
  • Raised engagement and quality of work – Providing students with the chance to learn outside of the classroom raises their engagement with the curriculum and greatly improves learning outcomes.

Benefits for Teachers

  • Sharing of best practice – International school partnerships allow teachers and leaders access to expertise they may not otherwise have. From classroom observations to valuable pedagogy exchanges with educational leaders around the world, schools can benchmark their own teaching and learning practices and receive infinite inspiration.
  • Cultural learning opportunities – The chance to learn and experience other cultures and educational models doesn’t just affect students. Teachers too can learn a variety of skills from their overseas partners such as language and communication, cultural awareness and tolerance and enhanced knowledge of their own subject.

Creating International School Partnerships

When you’re thinking about creating an international partnership for your school, there are many aspects that need to be considered.

Below are some tips on how to get started with your partnership journey and some things to think about along the way.

1. What type of partnership will be best for you?

There are usually different types of partnership you can establish with a school. The types available to you will vary depending on the organisation you use to establish the partnership, or whether you reach out to the school yourself.

Some partnerships are made up of a cluster of schools that work together to support one another with global learning. A one-to-one partnership, meanwhile, is a closed relationship between a school in the UK and another school from another country.

2. What countries can you realistically partner with?

Once you know what type of partnership you would like to create, it’s important to think about the logistics such as location and demographics of your partner school.

Do you want to work a school that has a similar demographic, or in a comparable area? Would the school be easy to travel to, should a visit be on the cards?

3. What type of partner school would suit your needs?

Are you looking for a partner in a specific country or with a particular focus? Think about the unique needs of your school, and what kind of school might complement that.

4. What can you offer your partner school?

Make sure you know what you could viably offer to your partner school before reaching out.

This could include cultural factors, curriculum strengths, digital facilities, extra-curricular activities, etc.

Top Tips for Creating a Lasting Connection

1. Collaboration is key to raising engagement & quality of work.

Students thrive on designing and creating collaborative with others. Knowing that their partner school is doing the same thing at the same time has the potential to break down those distance barriers and change students’ view of the world.

Real working together, where students work with other students is by far the best way to engage, raise motivation and create excellent quality work.

2. Share good teaching and learning practice

One of the biggest aspects of any international school project seems to be providing students with a real meaningful impact and sharing teaching practice.

Through visits, Skype conversations, and other modes of communication, two schools can open up the exchange of good teaching and learning practice between them.

3. Share your experiences with others

The sharing of school experiences is one of the most powerful tools in terms of bringing new students on board and having an impact on those who perhaps haven’t had the opportunity of visiting the partner school themselves, or a hosting visit.

Schools and teachers can build the sharing of experiences into learning for the whole school, which raises the importance of international opportunities on the school agenda.

4. Keep projects personal

International school partnerships often seem about connecting schools, but they are really about connecting people.

Teachers and leaders (and even students) should try to find someone on the other side of the partnership who is as passionate about they are, and take it from there.

5. Make use of language learning opportunities

Though learning a partner school’s language isn’t essential for the partnership to work, it does help. This can be done through the use of language learning apps and software that can be used within the classroom, or lunchtime and after-school clubs.

6. Involve the local community – they have international links too

School partnerships can be strengthened by involving the local community, which may include those with ‘life history’ that ties them to another part of the world.

Whether it’s a parent or teacher at the school who isn’t from the UK, or even a child who has experiences in other parts of the world, sometimes it can be incredibly valuable to look at the resources and people you have on your doorstep.

Sister School Partnerships with TEP

TEP works to create and maintain sister school partnerships between schools in the UK and China.

Through immersive student exchanges, pedagogy exchanges, participation in joint projects and curriculum enrichment, we help schools enhance the learning experience and encourage students to develop important skills that will help them succeed in education, work and society.

Schools are carefully matched based on their compatibility and our dedicated team is there to help you every step of the way. This includes contacting schools on your behalf, organising trips, supporting joint projects and and providing support with ongoing communications and translations between you and your sister school.

Headteachers and leaders are invited to embark on a Leadership Delegation to first meet with educational leaders in China and in some cases, the leader of their sister school. When a sister school partnership is established, the two headteachers will sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to symbolise the new relationship and the start of their sister school journey.

If you’d like to know how you can create an international sister school partnership with TEP, get in touch with us.