Cluster Partnerships

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Recruitment for cluster partnerships has now stopped for 2021, but if you’re already in this kind of partnership, then please read on to read more about the support on offer to you.

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 on projects 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. Click on the cross at the side of each to read more:

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: with at least one individual in the school taking on the role of ‘Cluster Co-ordinator‘. Find out more about this below in the ‘Start your Journey’ section.
  • Will be partnered with a school from a participating CCGL country.

Partner School

  • Can be UK-based or in one of the participating countries.
  • Ideally, has some previous experience of Learning for Sustainability and/or international partnership working.
  • Will have a partner school: in the UK for schools from other countries, and in another CCGL country if the school is in the UK.

Network School

  • Possibly new to international partnership work and Learning for Sustainability.
  • Keen to learn from lead and partner schools.
  • Will NOT have their own partner school in another CCGL country.

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: Cluster partnership – with reciprocal visits

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 partner schools; comprising an equivalent number of schools from the UK and from your chosen participating country. One of the UK partner 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 any help to find overseas or local partners. Remember, four is the minimum number of schools – there’s no maximum!

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: Cluster partnership – working online only

We want to collaborate as a group of UK schools. We all want our own individual partner school overseas – but we just want to collaborate online.

No problem. You can build an online partnership. Just build a cluster as per Option 1 and apply for funding through the Online Partnerships model. The more partner schools you have in your cluster, the more funding you are eligible for.

Think about bringing in some network schools too – they wouldn’t 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. Please note that adding network schools to your cluster does not increase the amount of funding you are eligible for under this model – funding for online partnerships is only based on lead/partner schools.

Option 3: Network-based 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 school from your chosen participating country. Other UK schools can then join the cluster as ‘network’ or ‘partner’ schools. Again, you’ll need a minimum of four schools in total; including your overseas partner school.

Collaborating online? You can apply for funding based on the number of lead/partner schools in the cluster. If you have just one lead school in your cluster (which will have its own overseas partner), then you’ll qualify for the £400 which is given to one-to-one partnerships.

If any of the lead or partner schools want to take part in reciprocal visits, then you’ll need to apply via the reciprocal visits funding model.

Remember, we’re here to help – so please get in touch if you’re not sure which route to take.

3. Start your journey

Follow the steps below to start your cluster partnership. Click on the cross next to each step to view the resources you need for that step. Click here for a summary of all of the resources you’ll need.

Step 1: Read the Cluster Co-ordinator materials to find out more

Step 2: Build your cluster

The links below can help you with finding your international partner school(s). Get in touch with us or your local advisor if you need any help with this – or with finding other Scottish/rest of the UK schools.

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

Every UK-based school in your cluster should do this to find out their strengths and development needs when it comes to Learning for Sustainability and partnership working. Your international partner schools don’t have to do this, but they’re very welcome to do so if they wish. Send them to the Project Manager once you’ve completed them. You’ll then be introduced to your local advisor.

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

Your cluster is eligible for 27 hours of FREE support that can be taken at any time during the lifetime of your project.

Your local advisor can help you with all of your cluster needs: including collating the results of your individual school self-evaluations into your cluster self-evaluation, planning your collaborative project, completing your funding application, and accessing suitable professional learning. Get in touch with us and we’ll introduce you to them!

Step 5: Submit your funding application

Don’t worry about missing a funding deadline – applications will be assessed every quarter until June 2021. Applications are made online through the British Council’s online funding portal.

 The remaining funding deadlines in this iteration of the programme are April 26th and June 21st 2021.

Funding for clusters covers a range of options to support your partnership. 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: 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!

Remember to make the most of the remaining free support time from your local 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 and make full use all of our FREE classroom resources!

Step 9: Submit your interim project report

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

Step 10: Submit your final project report

You’ll get full details of this with your funding contract. 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. 

Don’t forget to get in touch at if you need any additional information or advice at any stage of your Connecting Classrooms journey.

Why not have a look at our Professional Learning?