Pauline Stirling is a former teacher and e-twinning ambassador, with many years’ experience of connecting and working with teachers in schools abroad. Her first links came about when she received a chance email from a headteacher in Germany. She decided to reply and as a result of that contact, established an ongoing partnership between the two schools. Later on she found a school in Brittany and began working with that one too. These initial contacts led her to become an e-twinning ambassador, providing advice and support to teachers looking to link up with colleagues in other countries.
“It’s important to build up trust,” she tells us. “School partnerships are only as good as the relationships between the adults involved, so it’s sensible to give some thought to how you are going to work together and ensure everyone is clear about what the expectations are. You can even create a “charter” setting out what you are going to do together. If the teachers involved are able to meet face-to-face, that can be very helpful in terms of getting to know each other and understanding what each of you wants to get out of the arrangement.
“Another tip is to make sure that you have more than one contact at your partner school. I’ve had situations where very good projects have fallen apart because a key person has left and there was nobody else able or willing to take it on. It’s also well worth spending some time on finding a school which is a good match for yours, particularly in terms of the age of the pupils and the level of their language proficiency. While it isn’t essential to match children in terms of social background, or whether they live in a city or a village, you do want them to feel they have things in common with each other.
“It’s also important to be realistic, both in terms of what you can commit to, and in terms of what you are expecting from your partner school. Even relatively low-key activities, such as exchanging letters, can work very well and are often extremely rewarding for the children. Alternatively, you can design and carry out bigger projects together. Again it comes down to what you want to achieve, what you can manage and what each partner school is expecting of the other.
“School partnerships are only as good as the relationships between the adults involved, so it’s sensible to give some thought to how you are going to work together”
“At one point, I had a group of Year 9 students. I had them last thing on a Friday afternoon and they were quite a challenging group. We signed up for a project about Fairy Tales on e-twinning and it really took off. It was a whole year’s work. We read up about it, watched films and did all sorts of research. At the end, the kids got dressed up in costumes and we made a film and shared it online. It was hugely motivational. It gave the kids a real reason to read and it was a load fun for them. We were also able to see what the other schools had done and they learned a lot from that too. It was just brilliant.”