Cluster Partnerships

Don’t forget to contact the Connecting Classrooms Project Manager on 0131 650 9731 or at if you need any additional information or advice at any stage of your Connecting Classrooms journey.

How does a ‘cluster’ work?

Remember that a ‘cluster’ in this instance is a ‘cluster of interest’. It could include schools from other places in your local authority, or from completely different local authorities. It could even include schools from other parts of the UK; all collaborating together with partner schools from a choice of over 30 countries.

There are several different options when it comes to forming a cluster and these are outlined below. Remember, that regardless of which option you choose, you should always have a minimum of four schools; at least one of which must be from a participating overseas country.

What support is available?

1. Before you begin…

Cluster groups can include a mix of early years, primary, secondary and ASN schools. There’s no limit to the number of schools taking part. However, as a minimum, there should be at least four schools involved; including schools from participating countries outside the UK.

To get the most out of a cluster, it’s good to have a mix of the following types of schools:

Lead school

  • Must be in the UK.
  • Applies and manages any grant funding you apply for.
  • Has experience of working with international partner schools and leading Learning for Sustainability-related activities.
  • Has a role in coordinating the activities within the cluster.

Partner school

  • Ideally, has some previous experience of Learning for Sustainability and/or international partnership working.
  • Can be UK-based or overseas.

Network school

  • Possibly new to international partnership work and Learning for Sustainability.
  • Keen to learn from lead and partner schools.
  • Must be UK-based.

2. Decide what kind of cluster you want to build.

Build your Connecting Classrooms through Global Learning cluster in a way that suits you. Choose from the options below:

Option 1: Visit-based cluster

We want to collaborate as a group of UK schools. We all want our own individual partner school overseas – and for us all to visit our overseas partners once circumstances permit. You’ll need at least four schools; comprising an equivalent number of schools from the UK and from your chosen participating country. One of the UK schools will act as ‘lead’ school and someone in that school will be the Cluster Co-ordinator. Get in touch with us if you need help to find overseas or local partners.

Why not bring in some ‘network’ schools too? They wouldn’t be eligible for visit funding or have their own assigned partner school overseas, so it’s a great way for schools who are just beginning their Learning for Sustainability journey to share and collaborate with more experienced colleagues.

Option 2: Virtual cluster

We want to collaborate as a group of UK schools. We all want our own individual partner school overseas – but we don’t want to visit our overseas partners. No problem. You can build a ‘virtual’ partnership. Just build a cluster as per Option 1 and apply for all of the funding available to you as usual – minus the travel element. Think about bringing in some network schools too.

Option 3: Network cluster

We want to collaborate as a group of UK schools. We don’t all want our own individual partner school overseas and we don’t all want to travel. One UK school will act as ‘lead’ school and partner with a minimum of one school from your chosen participating country. Other UK schools can then join the cluster as ‘network’ schools. Again, you’ll need a minimum of four schools in total; including your overseas partner school. You’ll work with each other on a ‘virtual’ basis and you’ll still qualify for all of the funding apart from travel costs; although the lead Scottish school can still take part in a reciprocal visit with the overseas partner school if they want to. This is a great option for schools who are new to partnership work or Learning for Sustainability.

If you want more schools in the cluster to take part in a reciprocal visit, or for each UK school to have its own individual partner school, then you’ll need to choose Option 1 or Option 2.

3. Start your journey

Follow the steps below to start your cluster partnership. Click on the pink hyperlinks below each step to view the resources you need for that step.

Step 1: Read the Cluster Co-ordinator Handbook and Role Profile to find out more.

Step 2: Recruit your cluster.

The links below can help you with finding your international partner school(s). Get in touch with us if you need any help with this – or with finding other UK-based schools.

Step 3: Complete your individual whole-school self evaluations.

Every UK-based school in your cluster should complete this. Send them to the Project Manager once you’ve completed them. Your international partner schools don’t have to complete this, but they’re very welcome to do so if they wish.

Step 4: Access more free support from your local advisor and get planning!

The 3 days and 3 hours of support can be taken at any time during the lifetime of your project. Your local advisor will help you to collate the results of your individual school self-evaluations into your cluster self-evaluation. They can help you with your funding application, project planning, professional learning queries and signpost you to a wealth of resources to help you. Get in touch with us and we’ll introduce you to them!

Step 5: Submit your funding application through the British Council’s online system.

Don’t worry about missing a funding deadline – applications will be assessed every quarter until December 2020. The next deadline is June 15 2020.

Funding for clusters covers a range of options, including supply cover for cluster co-ordinators, training and events funding and project funding – as well as travel funding for all of the schools in the cluster to visit their partner school if they want to. Find out more by clicking on the links below.

Step 6: A decision is made on your application by the British Council.

Step 7: You receive feedback on your application from the British Council.

Step 8: You take action based on the outcome of your funding application.

If you’re successful, then you’ll get 80% of your funding upfront and your project can get going! Click on the links below to access resources to help you.

Remember to make the most of the remaining free support time from your local expert advisor.

If you’re unsuccessful, then you’re eligible for a further 3 hours of support from your local advisor to look at your application and help you reapply if you want. Regardless of the outcome, however, you’re still eligible to take part in our FREE professional learning opportunities.

Step 9: Submit your interim project report.

The British Council will send you details on this with your funding contract.

Step 10: Submit your final project report.

Once it’s been checked over by the British Council, and if everything looks ok, you’ll receive the final 20% of your funding.

Step 11: Receive your International School Award.

You’ll receive the relevant level of the International School Award to recognise and highlight your achievements.

Remember, the Project Manager is available to answer any queries or questions you may have at any stage of your Connecting Classrooms journey. Get in touch at We look forward to hearing from you!