Face-to-face contact with your partner school goes a long way to building trust and understanding. Plan it carefully and a visit can be a hugely rewarding experience.
As soon as you know that a visit is on the cards, draw up a draft programme in collaboration with your link school. This isn’t a rigid itinerary, but a suggestion of the sorts of things you’d both like to cover during the visit. Don’t forget to ask about local cultural differences/protocols/expectations, so you are aware of these in advance.
When you arrive, it’s possible that your plans will need to change. Stay flexible, but try not to neglect your own professional development; think about the aspects of your partner school that particularly interest you and let your guests know that you’re keen to find out more.
During the visit
Face-to-face contact builds trust, gives each partner a better sense of understanding and commitment, and it also provides an opportunity for visiting teachers to gather information about their partner school. Why not consider some of the following activities during your visit?
- Get to know the school, e.g. classroom observations / meetings with senior management / attending staff meetings / meeting the student council / shadowing a pupil.
- Gather useful resources and information.
- Share your culture with staff and pupils, e.g. take part of an assembly / Q&A time in classes.
- Use meetings to establish the specific needs and priorities of both partners.
- Teach a class, either on your own or in a team. This could be focussed around the global dimension theme or your curriculum plans.
- Do some curriculum planning with relevant staff members and the appropriate curriculum documents.
- Collaborate on some partnership planning, e.g. developing or updating a Partnership agreement / resolving issues that have arisen in the partnership / planning for the next visit / discussing the future of the partnership.
- Carry out an evaluation (of the visit / partnership).
If you are in a cluster, consider how much time you need to spend in your partner school, and how much as the whole cluster.
If you are travelling independently (without the support of your local authority or a central agency) you should consider your personal safety very carefully.
Get proof that the school you are visiting is bona fide and that the head teacher knows you’re coming. Before you set off make sure that there has been an exchange of letters between schools – sent directly to your schools’ postal addresses.
Examine the identity of those who have contacted you. Remember an email alone, no matter how welcoming, cannot guarantee your safety. (We have verified that the schools registered on this website are recognised by the education authorities in their own countries. However, individual email addresses cannot be checked in this way.)
If you are being collected, phone the school directly and check that the school is aware of your visit. They should be able to reassure you that will be collected, as planned. If possible, try to get a photo of the person you will be meeting. Always make sure that you have local contact telephone numbers in case things don’t go precisely to plan.
Tips for a successful visit
- Don't get shut away in meetings or 'socials' - absorb a real understanding of the day-to-day reality of life in your partner school.
- Build relationships with several staff members; don't focus on one particular person - though it's great if you get along well.
- Ensure that your partner school agrees about the general focus of the link.
- Test communications with a colleague back at home to demonstrate how teleconferencing and videoconferencing might work in the future and to establish what ICT will work best for your partnership (e.g. texting, email, blogs or a project space). Leave written instructions and contact details.
- Ensure that the school calendars are up to date (e.g. term and exam dates).
- Learn about the culture and customs of your host country.
Many of the schemes run by the British Council and its partners start with a school visit. Find out more in the programmes and funding section of this website.
"One of the main outcomes of my visit is the total commitment of the school as a whole to the link. The interest generated and the support of the staff and pupils has been tremendous, and the school has now agreed to hold an annual 'Lesotho Day'."
Secondary school teacher, Lancashire.