Blog: Connecting Classrooms in lockdown

This blog is about the Successful Partnerships and core skills courses in Wales, delivered as part of the Connecting Classrooms through Global Learning programme funded by the British Council and UK Aid. The programme supports schools in the UK to work in partnership with schools around the world and offers a range of professional learning opportunities. Schools across Wales are partnered with schools in several countries including Lesotho, Zambia, South Africa and Nepal.

My first instinct when the first lockdown arrived in March last year was to pause our Successful Partnerships professional learning course until face-to-face events could restart.

I thought that with the challenges of home learning, digital learning, key worker hubs and bubbles, it would be completely unrealistic to expect teachers to find time to focus on their school partnerships.

I was wrong and am so glad I changed my mind. The privilege of sharing ideas with teachers across Wales on Zoom has been a highlight of my lockdown life.

The image shows two people discussing 'finding funds and in-kind support'. The person on the left asks: 'What in-kind support can we find' and 'what's the minimum we need to continue our partnership?' The person on the right asks 'Can we attract new funding' and 'What can we do without money?'. There are Nigerian and UK maps on the wall.

Despite the huge challenges, teachers found time and ways to keep their partnerships alive – connecting with their partner schools over WhatsApp, Seesaw, Zoom, email and snail mail, sharing experiences of the pandemic and planning collaborative pupil projects.

It also meant we could reflect in the course the extraordinary global events that were taking place. As I was adapting the course to an online format, the Black Lives Matter movement gained momentum around the world and I looked again at the course content to make sure we were sufficiently covering considerations of power and privilege. For example, we explored The Danger of a Single Story as a powerful reminder that we all make assumptions and have assumptions made about us.

Everyday Africa and Dollar Street have also been popular as great resources to explore similarities and differences and challenge some of our assumptions.

But perhaps the most transformational impact of moving the course online is that partner schools can attend together. Yes, the signal can be rubbish and there are technical challenges. But running the training for schools in Wales alongside their partner schools allows us to explore the ideas of partnership, equity and sustainability together.

Teachers from Glan-y-Mor in Wales and Moyeni High in Lesotho explore ways to teaching for creativity together

Of course, I can’t wait to do face-to-face training again – to get out my post-it notes, flipchart paper and pens, and to interact directly with people again, but we’ll not be abandoning the digital approach – the opportunities it offers to bring people together from around the world to learn, explore and share ideas are just too good to leave behind.

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