[Case study] Developing international partnerships

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The internet and modern transport offer unprecedented opportunities for pupils to learn about - and even experience - faraway countries, their peoples and different cultures. As part of a study in global community cohesion, we heard from the international co-ordinator at George Abbot School, a state secondary in Guilford, about the benefits of its partnerships with schools in different parts of the world.

George Abbot, which has held the International School Award since 2003, has links with schools in France, Germany, Canada, Tanzania, China, India and South Africa. These partnerships have enabled its pupils to experience different cultures and engage in some truly inspiring programmes.

For instance, on a recent trip to Tanzania, pupils from George Abbot worked together with pupils from Mukidoma High School on a community project which involved building a house for the family of one of the Mukidoma pupils. The Tanzanian pupils were able to translate when communicating with the family. The two schools also held a joint sports day, furthering the friendships between their pupils.

In 2007, twenty gifted pupils were invited to Vancouver by the students and staff at the University of British Columbia’s “Transition Programme”, to take part in a week of workshops during the Global Citizenship Summer Institute. In 2010, pupils had an opportunity to visit the Vancouver Marine Biology unit, which is usually accessible only to university students.

George Abbot's international links have engendered many other cross-curricular programmes. Pupils embarked on a year-long creative and expressive arts course in which Mukidoma provided inspiration for art, dance and drama, and George Abbot's pupils based their work on videos and photographs taken by sixth formers who had visited the Tanzanian school. (Similar arts projects have been undertaken with Maharaja Sawai Man Singh Vidyalaya School in India and Jinyuan Senior High School in China.) Year 7 pupils took a citizenship course focusing on the treatment of albino children in Tanzania and what Mukidoma School does to support them. And coffee growing in Tanzania and water conservation at School in India have been incorporated into geography lessons at George Abbot.

Pupils are expected to raise some of the money for trips to partner schools (through, for example, weekend jobs or selling cakes in school). George Abbot pupils have also raised money for projects connected with its partner schools: by, for instance, making and modelling clothes for a fashion show to raise money for a women's project based at a school in India near Maharaja Sawai Man Singh Vidyalaya.

Trips and communication with partner schools can also benefit those pupils not directly involved. On returning from exchanges, pupils give talks and exhibitions about their experiences, expanding their peers' knowledge of peoples, cultures and languages, and encouraging empathy with others around the world. The partnerships and their rewards are further strengthened by visits by foreign students, who stay with the families of George Abbot pupils, attend lessons, and go on sightseeing expeditions.

Incorporating international partnerships into school processes and CPD

Internationalism is an important part of George Abbot School, and its partnerships are included in its processes of planning and evaluation. To renew its International School Award, George Abbot must evaluate all its links every three years. Information on the links is included in the Headteacher's annual report to governors and in his report to parents. The international co-ordinator also reports to the governors as necessary – usually once every two years. In addition, the school's improvement plan aims to address the international dimension every year.

The international co-ordinator stressed that communication is key to maintaining international partnerships: schools and teachers must be able to keep in touch. She explained that George Abbot School used to use the Teachers’ International Professional Development funding, provided by the Department for International Development through the Specialist Schools and Academies Trust. This funding enabled teachers to be involved in the links with schools in foreign countries and to build up personal contacts, making them more engaged with the partnerships and meaning that they had a contact if they wanted to develop a curriculum project. Although this funding is no longer available, George Abbot School aims to continue developing its international dimension.

For more information about George Abbot’s international partner schools and to see more videos of the school’s student exchanges, please visit the school’s website.

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