Thursday 19 December 2019


South African teachers - Stephen Maapea and Thembi Letsoele - made a very special Christmas visit to Northern Ireland recently.

They were here to link up with their partner schools - Cedar Lodge Special School and Clandeboye Primary School – through British Council and DFID’s (Department for International Development) Connecting Classrooms Through Global Learning programme.

The schools, who have been partnered together since September, are using the programme to help equip their pupils with the knowledge, skills and attitudes to live and work in a global economy – and will focus on mental health and wellbeing and digital technology in special education.

During the week they were welcomed to both schools through class assembly’s, nativity plays and carols by candlelight as well as getting the chance to teach lesson in the classroom.

Naomi Flynn, a Primary 2 teacher at Clandeboye Primary said: “It’s been amazing to have both Stephen and Thembi in class with us all week – staff and pupils have really embraced the visit and they’ve been a breath of fresh air for the school. They have opened our eyes to new ways of teaching and have provided us with valuable tools to help with digital problem solving.”

The teachers first met face to face in October, when Naomi and Chris Murphy, Principal of Cedar Lodge Special School made a week-long visit to both Esikhisini Primary School and Sozizwe Special School, in Pretoria and Johannesburg. 

Speaking about the partnership, Chris said: “It was great to be out in South Africa and get the chance to experience a different culture and education setting and we hope it’s the beginning of a long-term legacy project between the schools.  Our partnership with Clandeboye PS has been just as important, as a big focus for us is bridging the divide between special school and mainstream education here in Northern Ireland.

“Through Connecting Classrooms we want to create transferrable skills for both our pupils and teachers, so our project centres around Lego-based therapy and creating animations, and this will help develop communication, collaboration and problem-solving skills, both here and in South Africa.

“As we move forward, we hope to explore how we can develop our staff - especially at a leadership level - through for example, staff exchanges and online teaching lessons – and we will continue to build the relationship between our pupils.”

The programme, delivered in Northern Ireland in conjunction with the Centre for Global Education (CGE) aims to connect Northern Ireland schools with African, Asian and Middle Eastern classrooms and will benefit over three million pupils worldwide, with school partnerships available with 29 countries across the world.

It will also train 60,000 teachers and school leaders in the UK and developing countries to equip pupils with the knowledge, skills and attitudes to make a positive contribution toward a fairer and more equal world.

Speaking about the programme Jonathan Stewart, Director, British Council Northern Ireland said: “Connecting Classrooms through Global Learning provides our young people with an opportunity to develop the knowledge, skills and understanding they need to thrive in an increasingly global society.

“The partnership between the Northern Ireland schools and those in South Africa show the huge impact these connections can have on both pupils and teachers – especially in developing transferrable skills - and we hope schools across Northern Ireland continue to sign up  and take part.

Schools can apply for up to £35,000 in funding – and those interested in being part of the Connecting Classrooms through Global Learning (CCGL) programme can sign up and find a partner school by going to: and selecting the part of the programme they are interested in, or by emailing

The next deadline for applications is January 27 2020.

The British Council is the UK’s leading cultural relations organisation. For more information on Connecting Classrooms or current opportunities in Northern Ireland, visit, or follow on Twitter: @BCouncil_NI

Notes to Editor

For further information please contact: 

Claire McAuley, Communications Manager: T +44 (0) 28 9019 2224 | M +44 (0) 7856524504 Twitter: @BCouncil_NI, Facebook – 

About the British Council

The British Council is the UK’s international organisation for cultural relations and educational opportunities. We work with over 100 countries in the fields of arts and culture, English language, education and civil society. Last year we reached over 75 million people directly and 758 million people overall including online, broadcasts and publications. We make a positive contribution to the countries we work with – changing lives by creating opportunities, building connections and engendering trust. Founded in 1934 we are a UK charity governed by Royal Charter and a UK public body. We receive 15 per cent core funding grant from the UK government.  For more information, please visit:

About Connecting Classrooms

  • The Connecting Classrooms through Global Learning programme will offer grants to fund visits by UK and developing country teachers to the partner school. Mobile digital platforms (such as WhatsApp and Zoom) will also be used to enable classroom-to-classroom activities between teachers and pupils.
  • The scheme is jointly funded and delivered by the British Council who will contribute £17m. DFID will contribute £21m.
  • The programme is for children aged between 7-14 yrs and it will operate in the following countries:


Sub Saharan Africa

Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Nigeria, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, South Africa, South Sudan, Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia, Zimbabwe

South Asia

Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, Pakistan, India


Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq, Yemen, Occupied Palestinian Territories, Tunisia, Egypt, Morocco

East Asia


What’s the difference between Connecting Classrooms through Global Learning and Connecting Classrooms?

 Connecting Classrooms through Global Learning builds on key elements of DFID’s most recent development education programmes: the Global Learning Programme (2013-18) and Connecting Classrooms (2015-18).

 From the Global Learning Programme it adopts a focus on global learning and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in a wide range of UK schools; a tailored approach to each of the four nations of the UK in order to align with their curricula; encouraging the formation of school clusters in order to achieve economies of scale and improve standards through peer learning; providing funding for supply cover so that teachers can access training; and encouraging local community action in line with the SDGs.

From Connecting Classrooms, it retains a focus on partnerships between schools in the UK and overseas, the provision of high-quality materials through the Schools Online website, advocacy and awareness raising of key educational issues overseas, and accreditation for schools through the International Schools Award (ISA). The programme will also continue to place emphasis on strong monitoring and evaluation.

In addition, Connecting Classrooms through Global Learning contains a number of new elements:

  • funding for reciprocal visits, so that overseas teachers can now visit partner schools in the UK, and help bring their country to life for UK pupils providing training to teachers on running equitable and sustainable partnerships;
  • the creation of a virtual partnerships platform for schools that are unable to take part in face-to-face partnerships;
  • a focus on training overseas teachers to develop their pupils’ skillset for the global economy e.g. entrepreneurial skills;
  • encouraging partnered schools to make local progress on an SDG as a shared project;
  • teacher training overseas to be aligned with DFID’s 2018 education policy, with a focus on education quality and inclusion;
  • accreditation for teachers and mapping other relevant awards for schools (such as UNICEF’s Rights Respecting School Award) to the ISA framework so that schools are duly recognised for their work on development education issues; in the UK, building on local community links and utilising local resources such as local NGOs, Development Education Centres, civil society organisations, higher education institutions, businesses, Regional Centres for Expertise, and encouraging Commonwealth Scholars, DFID staff, and returnees from the International Citizen Service and Voluntary Service Overseas programmes to visit local schools and discuss their experiences with pupils; and
  • a focus on a smaller number of priority countries, whilst adding Lesotho, given its strong links with Wales.