The following are some of the most common problems encountered in developing UK-Japan links. Many can be solved or avoided if the respective contact teachers are in good, regular contact.

Contact Teacher Leaving

If your link school suddenly goes quiet, you may find that your partner teacher has left, or gone on maternity or sick leave. While staff changes are unavoidable, their impact can be limited. Ideally, both schools should have at least one alternative contact who is aware how the link operates and is committed to its success.

In reality, however, many links are the result of one person’s vision and are difficult to sustain without them. If you are leaving, please notify your partner school so that they are aware of the situation. Make sure they know who has taken over your end of the link and encourage the new link teachers to begin communicating before you leave. It may be a busy time for you, but this will at least give the link a chance of survival or, at worst, mean that your partner school understands why the link fails. Alternatively, after some discussion, you may both decide that it makes most sense for the teacher leaving to take the link with them to their new school.

Pupils Leaving

It is inevitable that there will be some changes as pupils leave or move up through the school and encounter exam pressures etc. However, you can reduce the likelihood of problems:

  • If your link starts part way through your school year, don’t base it solely around pupils who will leave at the end of the year.
  • Inform your counterpart if a key group of pupils is about to leave. If you plan to start again with a new year group, warn the teacher that there may be a short pause in correspondence.
  • A class-based link can be revived with a new class of younger pupils.
  • A school links club will provide encouragement and assistance for pupils, and will also enable you to make substitutions when necessary.

Lack of Response From the Partner School

An email link may suffer should school servers break down or when networks are being upgraded. If you are not getting responses to emails, try sending faxes or telephoning. Contact Japan Society if you would like us to try and help ascertain the problem. The vagaries of the postal system are beyond any school’s control, but if you have agreed on a timetable for parcel exchange, try and keep to it. If there are delays at your end, email your counterpart to let them know. Email is always a useful back up: a quick message to let partners know that a package has been sent, or to acknowledge receipt, will keep the link ticking over.

Different Expectations

Organisations such as Japan Society try to link schools whose stated aims and preferred types of link match. We discuss details with schools before making the link. However, sometimes difficulties only become apparent once embarking on the link.

  • Let your counterpart know if you find you are unable to maintain the planned level of exchange. They may be willing to amend the programme until your problems are resolved. At least they will have the chance to look for a second, or supplementary, link which may more closely meet their requirements.
  • Conversely, if you want to expand the scale of your link, give your counterpart time to discuss things with colleagues and get any necessary approval from their school management.


Internet and email can be a relatively cheap way of communicating. However, some costs will inevitably accrue, be it for postage, digital technology or computer storage media. It is not easy to get funding for incidental expenses, although one school managed to get their local post office to help with postage costs. Funding for exchanges or for specific projects is dealt with in the funding section of these guidelines.


There is no denying that language problems exist in developing UK-Japan links. A limited, though increasing, number of UK students or teachers have any knowledge of Japanese, so links are usually conducted in English. Although English is now taught in some Japanese primary schools, the emphasis is on oral communication and lessons are often taught by visiting specialists. Full-time staff may not be sufficiently confident in their English to organise the link.

The Japan Society can set up a free email system to translate messages sent between teachers in both countries. This can go a long way to making planning and even just staying in touch significantly easier. Please contact the Japan Society office at for more information.

International Associations in Japan may also help.  Alternatively, our Japan UK LIVE! website offers language support for both staff and pupils.

Students need to make a conscious effort to use standard English / Japanese when writing to partners for whom this is not their native tongue. Spelling mistakes and text message style messages etc can make life very difficult.

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