The Opportunity

Establishing a sister school partnership with a school in China is a great way to help motivate your students to learn Chinese, to hear Chinese spoken in authentic contexts and to practise their own Chinese with peers of a similar age.

This video illustrates the impact of such a partnership on students at North Sydney Demonstration School in NSW. Its partner is the primary school attached to Shandong Normal University in Jinan.

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The impact of the Australia – China BRIDGE School Partnership Project at North Sydney Demonstration School

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The impact of the Australia – China BRIDGE School Partnership Project at North Sydney Demonstration School

Principals and teachers in both Australia and China note their value.

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Teachers and leaders from Chinese schools discuss key reasons for why sister school partnerships are important.

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Teachers and leaders from Chinese schools discuss key reasons for why sister school partnerships are important.

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Teachers and leaders from Australian schools discuss key reasons for why sister school partnerships are important.

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Teachers and leaders from Australian schools discuss key reasons for why sister school partnerships are important.

What is a sister school partnership?

Sister school partnerships are as varied as the schools who engage in them. In essence, a sister school partnership is a planned collaboration designed to offer the partners mutual benefit.

You can use them to expand the horizons of your students, you can use them to get excited about communicating with students far away, you can use them to make new friends and you can use them — in many ways — to build new language skills.

How do you make them work?

Experience tells us that there are a series of conditions fundamental to making partnerships work well.

This is what you need:

One or more committed members of staff (in larger schools, working as a team)

‘If you don't have someone in the school that truly believes in it, the program will fail.’
A principal from a school with a long-term partnership (Victorian DEECD research)

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Nick Murphy, Northcote HS discusses the need for committed staff and leadership team to support sister school partnerships.

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Nick Murphy, Northcote HS discusses the need for committed staff and leadership team to support sister school partnerships.

A supportive school administration

‘They don’t have to do all the work. But it’s so helpful when you can go to them and they know what you’re talking about and are positive about the partnership. They can make a lot more happen than I can.’
Teacher in a regional secondary school beginning a partnership (BRIDGE evaluative case study)

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The important role leaders and school councils play in establishing and sustaining sister school partnerships.

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The important role leaders and school councils play in establishing and sustaining sister school partnerships.

Common expectations and mutual benefit

‘You do have to iron out differences. That should be expected. What do they say? Forming, storming, norming? But when we both understood what we wanted to commit to and we started getting the payoff with the kids — that was when we had a partnership rather than a relationship.’
Principal in a metropolitan secondary school (BRIDGE evaluative case study)

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Key factors that support the establishment of sister school partnerships.

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Key factors that support the establishment of sister school partnerships.

Regular contact

‘You need to be in regular contact with them. Some kind of an interactive classroom where they can look at you and you can look at them in a classroom and be ongoing with your learning is really valuable. That's the important thing. Just like any family to stay together, you've got to communicate.’
Teacher in charge of a partnership in a metropolitan primary school (Victorian DEECD research)

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School leaders reinforce the need for regular communication with partners.

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School leaders reinforce the need for regular communication with partners.