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Twinning & Young People

Overseas partnerships and twinning links within a community are good ways of broadening the minds of young people. They can either take place through formal institutions, such as schools and colleges, through voluntary social groups, such as youth clubs and scout groups, or through local youth councils.

Although some schools and colleges take part in successful exchanges outside of twinning links, there are many additional benefits to be gained by developing a partnership within an existing local authority link. The range of contacts can be extensive and diverse, involving a broad representation of the community at all levels. This provides enormous scope for different projects. A twinning link is also timeless and is not dependent upon one person. Some school links have faltered after the staff member responsible for an exchange has left.

Participating in an exchange can contribute directly to many subjects within the national curriculum, making learning more fun and relevant. Living in a different country can also increase self-confidence and practical skills, through experiences such as using new forms of transport and visiting shops and restaurants where a different language is spoken.

Exchange visits can increase young people's awareness of citizenship by giving first hand experience of the way in which other societies function. Through direct contact with young people from other countries, national stereotyping can be overcome and replaced by tolerance and respect for other cultures.

Finally, young people need to develop the skills required in later life to compete with their counterparts from across the globe for jobs in other countries or with organisations that are owned or managed by people from different cultures.

Safety issues

The safety of young people on an exchange visit is of paramount importance. Parents or guardians on both sides must give their written consent for all children taking part. This is important not only for particular activities such as work experience or sports, but also for times when the young people are travelling or are unsupervised and for outside normal school hours.

The safety of young people is a complex issue and there are many sources of advice on this subject, ranging from Social Services Child Protection Units and the police, to local education authorities, school governing bodies and voluntary organisations such as the Guide Association. When children and young people are involved in international activities, there must be an agreed policy, and advice must be taken from the appropriate bodies.

The level and nature of a local authority's relationship with the education sector will vary depending on whether it has direct responsibility for education and is therefore able to influence the way in which the European and international dimension is covered in schools.

Youth democracy

Local democracy is not just about getting involved in what's happening on people's own doorsteps. Most local issues have a global dimension and young people have a lot to say about how the world is run, although they are increasingly uninterested in taking part in mainstream politics.

Taking part in local authority partnerships and twinning links is an excellent way of raising the issue of local democracy and providing more information to young people.

Useful links

* Connect Youth International
* The Commonwealth Youth Exchange Council
* Development Education Association

This is the ninth of a series of articles about twinning published by the Local Government Association (LGA) on their website. The original can be found here Copyright in this article belongs to the Euoropean and International Division of the Local Government Association who have very kindly given us permission to use it, for which we thank them.