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Thinking about linking

Want to widen the horizons at your school? Gillian Temple asks the questions you need to think about before you go global and, opposite, David Rosenberg reviews the best resources

So you want to bring a global dimension to your teaching, engage your pupils in their learning and develop the active global citizens of the future. Is school linking the answer?

Done well, school linking can add a lot to the development of global citizenship in schools: it can foster genuine understanding of the lives of people in other countries; challenge stereotypes and narrow perceptions in a real and lasting way; and help pupils celebrate and value the diversity of ways of life in the world today. It can also help pupils and teachers to realise that we have as much to learn from others, as we have to learn about others.

School linking can also be incredible fun, and lead to friendships between pupils, and teachers, across the world, and genuine solidarity in working together for a better world. What was "over there" for a stranger becomes "over here" for a friend. But it is not something to be approached lightly.

It is a demanding, complicated and time-consuming process that doesn't automatically lead to good global citizenship education. A bad school link, one undertaken without enough thought or preparation, is worse than none at all.

A school link isn't essential to developing your pupils as global citizens, it's only one of a whole range of ways you can do this, and it's not a magic pill which will solve all your global citizenship needs. What school linking can do is bring to life and make personal in a unique way our similarities and interdependence with people across the world. So before you consider embarking on a school link, think about the following questions: Why do we want a school link?

Your aims are key to the success of a school link, as are those of the partner school. School linking shouldn't be developed simply to tick the box marked "global citizenship": it should build on and enhance your global citizenship work across the school. Sustainable links take time to build and need to be based on openness and honesty about both partners' aims and motivations.

How can we develop a real partnership?

The aim of school linking shouldn't be purely to help the partner school, through fundraising or otherwise. School links based on charitable aims, however well meaning these may be, are very unlikely to become real partnerships and can be a very negative experience for pupils and teachers in both schools. Links based around fundraising can reinforce power differences between partner schools and compound pupils' negative perceptions and stereotypes. Fundraising can take place within a good school link, but be very aware of the distinction between fundraising to facilitate linking activities and fundraising to help the partner school.

Successful linking is about partnership: a working relationship based on respect, in which both partners make equal contributions, even if they are very different in terms of the wealth of their resources. It is about understanding that both partners can learn things from, as well as about, each other.

Do we have whole school support for the link?

Teachers and pupils need to be able to talk openly and honestly about the real issues that a link can create, including communications issues, prejudice and misunderstanding, and issues of inequality. For this to happen, and for the link to become embedded in the curriculum and school life in general, you will need commitment to the partnership from the whole school. CPD training for all teachers is vital, including training which helps teachers to explore the values and skills of education for global citizenship.

How will the link be embedded in the curriculum?

Links are most effective when they add depth to studies across the timetable, with partners jointly exploring issues and themes that affect pupils in both countries. Commonalities between pupils can be explored across a huge variety of areas: from food and farming to conflict and prejudice; from homes and sport to self-image and friendships. Good global citizenship resources can be invaluable in developing these areas of work, which should be embedded within your school's core curriculum rather than an add-on to existing studies.

Do we have the resources and training we need?

There is an enormous variety of resources available and each will have particular strengths for particular areas of work. Quality resources will take young people's lives as a starting point; employ active learning techniques, encouraging student participation; challenge stereotypes and use positive images of people and places in the South; and make links between the local and global, North and South, taking pupils beyond simply swapping information. Just as important is ensuring that all teachers have the time and the opportunity to explore global citizenship and issues around school linking, after all, a good school link can be a wonderful experience for teachers as well as pupils.

Up for the challenge Developing a good school link can seem daunting, but ultimately it can be a life-changing experience for teachers and pupils alike. The values and skills of global citizenship should never be seen simply as the outcomes of school links: they need to be placed at the heart of the linking process.

A link which isn't based on a global citizenship approach is very unlikely to become a real partnership, and a link without real partnership is very unlikely to deliver its potential for learning and enjoyment. But a school link which is embedded in the curriculum, carefully planned, supported by the whole school community and based on equal partnership and respect can add an enormous amount of value to pupils' learning, and an enormous amount of fun!

* The resources reviewed opposite are available from: BEBC (Oxfam), 15 Albion Close, Parkstone, Poole, Dorset BH12 3LL Tel: 01202 712933. Fax: 01202 72930 Email:

* Oxfam's Catalogue for Schools 2006 contains more than 400 specially selected education resources, all supporting a global approach to teaching and learning. Copies of Education for Global Citizenship: A Guide for Schools and Catalogue for Schools are available from Oxfam at Tel: 0870 333 2700 Email:

* More information, free resources and an online version of the Catalogue and the Guide can be found on Oxfam's website for teachers, Cool Planet Gillian Temple is head of Oxfam's development education programme.

Previously, she was head of humanities at Oxford Community School and has worked as a humanities adviser for Devon.

David Rosenberg is citizenship co-ordinator at Hanover Primary School, London, which is linked with Kizibu Primary School in Masindi, Uganda

* Make the Link

Share expertise, enrich learning and promote global citizenship by working with schools overseas - and enter the TESHSBC Make the Link awards, worth up to pound;5,000 each. Tell us about your links:

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