Connecting Classrooms puts UK students in touch with their peers around the globe. (Image credit: Frank Noon)
Tom Wilkes, a retired deputy headteacher at Nova Hreod College in Swindon, offers advice for schools applying for grants in our Connecting Classrooms programme, which links schools in the UK with others around the world.
I get the impression that many people are put off applying for grants by two things: the process of completing a form and then the extra work that will be involved in any partnership that might result. Of course, my answer would always be that applying for a programme like Connecting Classrooms is really worth the effort once you get there – but that does not help much when you are at stage one.
The first and vital step in the Connecting Classrooms application process is to get a group of people interested and committed to the project. Every stage in the process produces several tasks – some of them quite small – and it is far better if these tasks can be allocated to members of a team. Information and ideas for the ‘global themes, skills and outlooks’ section of the form could come from the curriculum areas that are most used to dealing with those questions (in a secondary school that might be humanities and personal, social and health education teachers); senior staff will be in the best position to answer some aspects of the form; and the school admin team are often invaluable with budgeting questions.
Do involve people from beyond the staff team as well – governors, parents, other partners – they can all play a part. However, someone does need to be in charge; this person will clearly need time and energy to provide the unifying vision and also the drive to chase the information required.
As the key person it is very useful to have a clear plan that has all of the main tasks on it along with a series of deadlines. Working backwards from the ‘final’ bid submission date, give yourself several months in which to draft the application and set your colleagues deadlines that fit within this overall scheme. This gives you the time to collate, absorb and convert the information into useful statements.
Colleagues who are accessible on a daily basis can be ‘chased up’ much more easily than potential partners on the other side of the world so establishing good lines of communication with reliable people is essential. I have always found e-mail backed up with text messaging and the occasional phone call to be the most productive method when liaising with our South African Connecting Classrooms partners. No matter how busy we think we are, they usually have more tasks to complete in less time and with fewer hands to help out. Always allow extra time, and if it takes less time, then you have an unexpected bonus.
Once the form has been drafted get several different people to read it and give you feedback. The complete form is often too difficult to understand, if the person has not been involved throughout; break the form down into chunks so that one person only has to look at relevant sections where he or she might have some expertise. For the key parts of the proposed project activity, set up a discussion with the delivery team so that you can think through the different stages of work together.
Do keep re-reading the guidance notes and also talk to the customer services team throughout the process; they have the experience to guide you when you feel you are stuck and will give the encouragement to get the application finished.
Apply for funding or find a partner school through Connecting Classrooms.