Sister School Partnerships

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Purpose of this policy

To inform schools of the relevant policies regarding sister school partnerships as well as the other arrangements where overseas students visit Victorian schools in relation to reciprocal visits within sister school partnerships. 

Pre-requisite policy


A sister school partnership is a meaningful, reciprocal and sustainable long-term partnership between two schools, aimed at fulfilling a range of purposes as determined by the school communities.  Sister school partnerships can be intrastate, interstate or international and are based on the principles of mutual educational benefit and reciprocity.


Participation in a sister school partnership is open to any school. Schools can identify and establish sister school partnerships on their own, or can seek advice from the International Education Division.

Schools must not enter into any commercial arrangements with their sister schools. Costs involved in sister school activities such as student visits should be negotiated between schools based on the principles of mutual benefit and reciprocity. It is reasonable to ask for sister schools to cover costs associated with the visits (and vice versa), but fees charged are only to recover actual costs incurred.

Schools must ensure that:

  • they take responsible steps to ensure that they meet their duty of care to students when organising and travelling to their sister-school sister schools as part of their sister-school sister school partnerships as well as when hosting visitors from their sister schools.
  • consideration is made to intellectual property and privacy matters relating to sharing student work between sister schools as well as student safety and wellbeing when engaging with social media or other online communications with sister schools.

Victorian students and staff travelling to sister schools

Visits to sister schools, including overseas visits, must comply with a range of Departmental advice relating to excursions, including: 

  • Excursions and Activities
    • Venue Selection - Schools must take steps to ensure that all venues that are to be used by the students during a visit to a sister school are suitable and appropriate. This includes homestay families’ place of residence (the Sister School Resource Kit has further advice on how to assess the suitability of homestay).
    • Safety, Emergency and Risk Management – Schools must conduct a risk assessment for overseas travel and develop a risk management plan
    • Staffing and Supervision - Schools must ensure excursions to sister schools are appropriately staffed in line with the outlined staff ratios and requirements.
    • Parent or carer consent – Schools must ensure that parents/guardians have provided informed consent for their children to participate in an excursion to a sister school. 
      • Note:  If there is a parenting order or a pending application for a parenting order, it is an offence for a person to take or send a child outside Australia unless it is with the written consent of each person with parental responsibility.  If schools are aware that a family is subject to family law orders or there are family law proceedings in place or pending, then it must obtain the written consent of both parents in order for the student to participate in the overseas excursion, see: Decision Making Responsibilities for Students
    • Student Medical Information - Schools must obtain and hold all up-to-date and relevant information about the student’s medical conditions, medication and other medical requirements, see: Excursions and Activities
  • Medical Insurance - The cost of medical and hospital treatment is high in some countries. Consequently, all staff and students must obtain travel and medical insurance for the entire overseas excursion.
  • Immunisations - School staff must take reasonable steps to inform students and their parents that immunisations might be required, including advising the student and their parents to seek medical advice from their doctor as well as directing them to the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade Smart Traveller website for travel advice.​
  • Emergency management plan​ ​-  Schools must also develop a plan that is specific for an overseas excursion, including:
    • procedures in the event of:
      • an emergency at the different venues in which the students will be located
      • a medical emergency including the details of emergency services, the local doctors, and the local hospitals that are located at the different venues in which the students will be located.
    • procedures for students to report any problem at the sister school, including staff members and/or at their homestay. Such procedures should be communicated to staff and students prior to departing.
    • nominating a person to be responsible for responding to critical incidents. Students and staff should be made aware of the responsible persons prior to departing, see: Emergency Management Planning
  • International and Domestic Travel Policy and Guidelines for School-Based Staff​ - School staff visiting overseas sister schools must comply with this policy, see: Travel for Staff​

Sister schools travelling to Victoria

Victorian schools must take reasonable steps to discharge their duty of care to students who they are hosting from their sister school.  The following policies apply:

  • Risk management - Schools must carefully consider all of the risks associated with hosting sister school students and prepare a Risk Management Plan. The responsibility for risk management lies with the principal and the school council, see: 
    Risk Management
  • Emergency management - Schools must extend their Emergency Management Plan to include the sister school students. This should include procedures:
    • in the event of an emergency involving the sister school students
    • for sister school students to report any problems at school
    • for students to report any problems in relation to their homestay.

    The plan must also include the nominated person/s responsible for responding to critical incidents. Information about emergency procedures and contacts must be communicated to sister school staff and students, see: Emergency and Risk Management

  • Student information - Schools must ensure that they collect adequate information from the sister school students and retain such information on the schools’ file in case it is required, for instance, in an emergency situation. Information should include:

    • student’s name and date of birth and their identification e.g. copy of passport and visas
    • parents/guardians’ names and contact details
    • emergency contacts
    • information on medical conditions and consent to provide this information to the student’s homestay family.
  • Suitability of host families and homestays - Schools must give careful consideration to the suitability of any homestay residences where sister school students will stay, in accordance with the Homestay Guidelines for Hosting Sister School Students, see: Hosting Visits from Sister Schools 

Exchange of school information and student work

  • Intellectual Property - If schools are considering exchanging or using school information or student work they must refer to the copyright policy, see: Copyright
  • Privacy - The exchange of information that could identify a student, such as names, addresses and photos, may have privacy implications as such exchanges may be governed by the Information Privacy Act 2000 (Vic).  If schools are considering exchanging a student’s personal information they must refer to the privacy policy, see: Privacy
  • Use of digital technologies and social media -  The exchange of information between staff and students with their sister schools may involve the use of digital technologies and social media. Schools must consider the guidelines and resources on the Cybersafety and Bully Stoppers webpages, see: Cybersafety, Bully Stoppers

Other visits outside of sister school partnerships

In addition to visits under sister school partnerships, overseas students visit Victorian schools through other types of programs, including short term study programs, secondary student exchange programs and international students program.  The differences between these types of visits are outlined in the table below.

Type of student visit​​Description​Visa category and conditions​Cost/fee arrangements​Other
Sister School partnerships

​Reciprocal, non fee paying visits negotiated between sister schools.

Visits include a school experience combined with a cultural tour.

​Tourist visa (maximum length of stay - 12 weeks).

​Cost negotiated between sister schools on a cost recovery basis.​School to school arrangement, visiting students are not required to be enrolled on CASES21.
Short Term Study Programs​​Fee paying, non-reciprocal program where students undertake a mix of structured classroom interaction and excursions. ​Tourist visa (maximum length of stay - 12 weeks)​Fee structure is set out in Ministerial Order 614​Overseas schools need to apply through the International Education Division.
​Student exchange -VRQA Secondary Student Exchange Program​Reciprocal program where an overseas student is enrolled in a school and undertakes full time study.  ​Student visa subclass 571 for exchanges longer than 29 days and up to 12 months​Reciprocal program - no tuition fees​Schools must operate student exchanges within the VRQA's requirements for registration as an exchange organisation
International Student Program

​Fee paying program administered by the Department.

Student is enrolled at the school and undertakes full time study as an international student.

Various visa categories​​Fees are set out in Ministerial Order 614​International students are required to apply through the International Education Division

Related policies

Department resources

For more information:

Other resources