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 Smiling Valley Intermediate Farm School:
South Africa (2009 - 2021)

Graphic of animals at sunrise in South Africa
Smiling Valley Farm School Crest

Smiling Valley Intermediate

Farm School

Kei Road

Eastern Cape, South Africa

World Map
Pupil of Smiling Valley Farm School

The Partnership

A global school partnership can:

  • increase young people's understanding of global issues

  • equip young people with skills and knowledge to become active global citizens

  • ensure young people's commitment to a fairer, more sustainable world

Originally the partnership started between Byrchall and Smiling Valley. However, as there were primary age learners at Smiling Valley, a third English school was added to the partnership. This was St. John's CE Primary School in Pemberton.

The three schools have all signed a new partnership agreement to show their commitment to developing a global partnership that is equitable. In June 2011 the Headteachers of the three schools signed this partnership agreement.

Picture of Headteacher at Byrchall High School, Mr. Alan Byrchall, Principal of Smiling Valley Farm School, Mongezi Mncono and Headteacher of St. John's Pemberton, Mr. Mark Speakman and Principal of Smiling Valley Farm School, Mongezi Mncono

There about 200 learners aged from 4 to 18 years. This school was formed in 1940 by a farming family. More recently the Roman Catholic Church has also become involved with managing the school, along with the Department for Education.


All the learners come from the surrounding farms and are Xhosa speakers. It is a school that has a strong and rich cultural background. 


The purpose of the link between the schools is to help pupils at both schools understand about different cultures and issues surrounding citizenship. (Partnership Agreement)

Staff from both schools attended a conference, in their own countries, about the benefits of developing global partnerships. Using the Global Partnership website they had requested a partner.

The British Council provided funds for some of the exchange visits. Further funding has been found from the staff involved, the community partners, generous gifts from individuals and some fund raising. The school has supported the initiative with its time and resources.

August 2009: Initial Meeting in Port Elizabeth, South Africa

Picture of Angela Finch and Mongeze Mncono

While on a family holiday, Mrs Finch (Deputy Head teacher) met the principal of the school in Port Elizabeth, South Africa on August 7th 2009. This is 300km away from the school, which is close to East London. Mr Mongezi Mncono and his wife came to spend an evening to discuss details of each school and to plan ways in which the partnership can develop for the benefit of students in both schools.


Mr Mncono received a plaque from Byrchall which had been made by the Product Design department.


He also received a DVD about life at Byrchall High School that had been filmed and edited by students in their ICT lessons. Mrs Finch received a booklet about life in Smiling Valley Intermediate School which had been put together by the staff and the students. Students from Byrchall sent postcards to the students of Smiling Valley and also gave their views about what they thought life was like at a school in South Africa.

April 2010:  Meeting in King Williamstown, South Africa

While on a family holiday to South Africa, Mrs Finch met Mr Mncono and his family in King Williamstown, which is 25 kilometres from Smiling Valley School. It is the nearest town to the school. The school is situated in a very quiet rural area, where adults are employed as labourers on the farms.

At this meeting it was planned how the schools could manage to communicate with each other and what activities would take place in each school. Smiling Valley school does not have any telephone lines and it did not have any computers, which is in contrast to all the facilities of Byrchall High School, which is a Maths and Computing College.

The ideas for future work were around the fact that neither school has a diverse population, nor are they situated in diverse communities. The aims were to:

  • Develop awareness of individual, group and societal differences that exist in many communities

  • Share the cultural heritage of our own communities and explore other heritages within our own countries and then exchange this information

  • Help pupils develop self-awareness and respect for others

  • Teach respect and valuing diversity

  • Exchange information that will allow both groups of students to communicate effectively with people from different backgrounds

  • Develop communication skills

  • Develop an understanding of cultural diversity and sensitivity to different perspectives

  • Develop confidence to examine their own values and beliefs and those of the communities of which they are part

Postcard of views of South Africa
Smiling Valley Farm School Crest

August    2010:  First Visit To Smiling Valley School

In August 2010 Mrs Finch and Mrs Hudson decided to spend their holidays in South Africa and to also visit the school for a few days. This was shortly after the FIFA World Cup had been held in South Africa.

The pupils of Smiling Valley knew that the World Cup had taken place, but had not seen any of the games. The boys loved to play football, but they did not have a proper kit or a football field to play on. The school put on days of special displays and activities which would help us to understand about the Xhosa culture and life in this area of South Africa. These included:

  • Special welcome with flags of the 2 countries

  • Football match between England and South Africa

  • Netball match between England and South Africa

  • Drama, music and dance

  • Visit to the home of one of the pupils

  • Local food

  • Visit from the Education Director and a commitment to support global partnerships

  • Helping pupils to write letters

The Byrchall staff were treated as very special guests, as the images show. The pupils from Byrchall had sent letters, they had made a DVD about life at Byrchall and gifts were also given to enable the partnership to develop and allow staff and pupils to communicate together.

April 2011:  Second Visit To Smiling Valley School

After the visit in August 2010, Mrs Finch and Mrs Hudson submitted an application to the British Council for additional funding to help the partnership to develop and exchange visits to take place. This was successful and allowed a further visit to the school in April 2011 and a return visit to England by the Principal of Smiling Valley.

The visits had to be planned in great detail to ensure that they met the aims of the British Council and allowed the pupils of both 2 schools to benefit. The pupils at Byrchall took part in several activities before staff visited and then the pupils in Smiling Valley participated in similar activities. A partner primary school was also involved, as in Smiling Valley the pupils start that school aged 4.

Photograph of teachers from Smiling Valley Farm School
Pupils and a teacher at Smiling Valley Farm School

June 2011:  The  Principal of    Smiling Valley School Visits England

The return visit by Mr Mongezi Mncono took place in June 2011.


He spent time in both Byrchall High School and St. John's Primary School.


He was interviewed by students, watched the drama and music performances, went to lessons and was taken out by staff and pupils to see some of the cultural and heritage sites and activities of England.

Mr Mncono also took many ideas from the schools to try in his school.

Mongezi Mncono in London

August 2012:  Third Visit To    Smiling Valley School 

Pupils playing at Smiling Valley Farm School

This year's visit to Smiling Valley Farm School was as exciting as ever. There had been many changes since the last visit 16 months ago. New ideas had been introduced since the Principal, Mr Mongezi Mncono, visited England. They now had prefects and class leaders and others who were taking on Student Voice roles, helping to develop their leadership skills. There were displays of work around the school that had been done in both Smiling Valley and by the staff and students of Byrchall. The staff were trying new ideas for teaching and learning.

This year the students in both Smiling Valley and at Byrchall had created textiles to show their understanding of their own and the partner school's culture. Pupils in both schools had worked to create movies of life in their own school. They have both been exploring the rights of people, looking at injustice and working towards a rights' respecting school through the UNICEF initiative.

The pupils in both school have access to computers now, and similar lessons to those in England were delivered to the pupils in South Africa.

The latest work between the 2 schools is about helping to prepare pupils in both schools to be successful global 21st century citizens. The work has started in both schools. This summer the pupils of Smiling Valley followed the same lesson plans that had been delivered to pupils at Byrchall. They were looking at career aspirations, creating a CV, how to apply for jobs and setting themselves targets, tasks and review points to enable them to reach their aspiration. There were many similarities between the aspirations of the pupils in each school. The next stages of this joint project were planned and are ready to be started in both schools.


Both schools are very keen on sport, and in particular football. This year this was recognised in the gift of goal posts to Smiling Valley, plus a generous donation of football kits, that were no longer needed from Newton Town Football Club.

Prize Giving

Smiling Valley held a Prize Giving ceremony, when the parents were invited into the school. The speech was given in English this time, and three English guests presented the prizes.

Both schools recognise the importance of parental support. The parents were extremely proud of their children. There were additional prizes for sport from St. John's CE Primary School in Pemberton. St. John's is part of this partnership, to support the work with the younger pupils in the school. Byrchall High School gave prizes for outstanding academic achievement. Additional prizes had been donated in memory of people, to encourage the pupils of Smiling Valley to work hard to be the best that they can be.

This event followed the same format as Byrchall's Founder's Day which is held at Haydock Racecourse each July. There was a speech by a guest speaker, demonstration of the musical ability of the pupils and an explanation of why these pupils had been chosen to receive these awards. There were awards for effort, achievement, sport and special awards.

Pupils playing football at Smiling Valley Farm School

APril   2013:  Fourth    Visit To    Smiling Valley School 

For this year’s visit, Mrs Finch and Mrs Hudson worked in the senior section of Smiling Valley School. The focus of the work was on Children’s Rights. The pupils of Byrchall High School had been developing their understanding of the Rights of Children during lessons. Then on a Gold Day in March the whole school developed resources and explored issues about the rights of children in different parts of the world.

Some pupils in Year 8 wrote the lyrics and music for a song, with the help of Mr Holden. A recording was made of Byrchall pupils singing this, along with the pupils of our English partner school, St John’s CE Primary School in Pemberton. When we were in South Africa we also recorded the Smiling Valley pupils singing the song.

We took two students, who are training to be teachers, to South Africa. They worked with the younger pupils to develop their interest in reading. They then worked with the staff to help the South African learners use the stories to develop numeracy and literacy skills.

The South African pupils enjoyed “The Very Hungry Caterpillar”, “We’re Going On A Bear Hunt” and “Giraffes Can’t Dance”. The highlight of the visit was a whole school sports day. The older pupils helped organise the event and develop their leadership skills.

Various photos of Smiling Valley Farm School

June   2013:   Second Visit To Byrchall 

The partnership between the schools and their pupils was firmly established by now. This time four people visited England; the Principal, Mr Mongezi Mncono, the Head of the Primary Phase, Ms Ivy Ntloko, the Head of the Secondary Phase, Ms Nosisa Dante and the Director of Education for the Eastern Cape for the Catholic Church, Mrs Maureen Mesimela. 

The benefit of having four people here meant that some of the new experiences in English schools could be implemented across all ages at Smiling Valley.

The visiting staff spent time working in classes with the English pupils. They were also interviewed by the pupils to find out the differences and similarities between the school experience in England and South Africa.

Various photos of Smiling Valley Farm School

April   2014:   Fifth    Visit To Smiling Valley 

This visit was by Mrs Finch and a student training to be a primary teacher. It is now a firmly established pattern of at least one visit per year to South Africa to work in the school.

This time the focus of the visit was to work with the older pupils on developing skills that will help them in the global workplace. They were producing CVs for future job applications, developing their skills with computer software and improving their language skills.

The younger pupils were developing their reading skills, using stories to find out about other parts of Africa and telling stories from their own culture.

This year we found that the school had more pupils than previously. The school had become very popular because of its international links and the new changes, as a result of the exchange visits and partnership. The class sizes were larger, sometimes 45 pupils, and there were two new classes. This included the pre-reception class.

Various photos of Smiling Valley Farm School

June   2014:   Third    Visit To Byrchall 

Photos of Smiling Valley Farm School teachers in England

In June we welcomed Ms N Magawu and Ms L Kanana to England. This was the first time they had flown and the first time they had left South Africa.

They spent most of their time here at Byrchall in lessons. They were interviewed by our students, to find out about the life of the learners in Smiling Valley School.

The highlights of the visit were the Awards’ Evening and the Leavers’ Ball. These events celebrate the achievements of the pupils and wish them well as they move on to the next stage of their education. The two visitors intend to return to South Africa and find appropriate ways to celebrate the learners’ achievements and to prepare them for life after they leave Smiling Valley.

August   2014:   Sixth    Visit To Smiling Valley 

In August 2014 Mr Williams (PE) and Mrs Williams (Art) visited Smiling Valley for the first time.


They continued to work on skills for life and introducing the learners to different subjects that they had no experience of.

Mrs Williams worked with pupils of all ages on producing Art work linked to the Commonwealth theme. The pupils made large scale displays of their variation on aboriginal art. The aim was to encourage the pupils to learn about other cultures.


Mr Williams taught PE, including football, ultimate Frisbee and softball. He worked with the Smiling Valley staff and helped them to develop their skills in delivering PE lessons and coaching the football teams.

Various photos of Smiling Valley Farm School

June 2015

In June, 4 members of Smiling Valley staff visited England to look at how primary and secondary schools operate.


They spent most of their time at Byrchall High School and St. John’s CofE Primary School in Pemberton; these schools are official members of the partnership. Not only did they attend lessons, they took part in some of the school events and visited London.

Various photos of Smiling Valley Farm School teachers

August 2015

In August, Mrs Finch, Mrs Hudson and Mrs Hornby visited Smiling Valley. While there, they experienced the culture of the pupils, they taught lessons and shared resources.


The focus of the visit was to show that all pupils are equal and that they should be valued as individuals.

While here, the teachers from England and South Africa met to discuss their approaches to teaching.

Easter 2016

Various photos of Smiling Valley Farm School

During the Easter holidays, Mrs Finch visited Smiling Valley to teach lessons based on encouraging the pupils to have high aspirations and how to approach applying to college and employment.


These were the same lessons that had already been taught at Byrchall High School. There were also two primary teachers from local Wigan schools, who worked with the younger pupils in the school. 


Mrs Finch and Mrs Hornby returned to Smiling Valley and were surprised at the increase in the number of pupils in the school. Many of the parents from the surrounding area want to send their son or daughter to this school because of the standards of education there and the additional experiences.

Both Byrchall and Smiling Valley focus on giving pupils a broad range of extra opportunities to lessons, provide experiences and give them responsibilities that will help with their personal development. Mrs Hornby worked with the older pupils, to show them that Maths is fun and to provide them with challenges.

Various photos of Smiling Valley Farm School


Various pictures taken at Smiling Valley Farm School

In 2018 Mrs Finch visited, with representatives from Ashton with Haydock Rotary Club.


The Rotary Club had used their fund raising to provide some basic resources for Smiling Valley. Further gifts, from Wigan schools and individuals, enabled Smiling Valley to introduces opportunities for play for the younger pupils.

2019: A Decade Of Partnership

2019 marked the celebration of the tenth year of the partnership and Smiling Valley Intermediate School has changed considerably over the years.

In 2009 there were less than one-hundred pupils in the school. In 2019 there are over four-hundred pupils, with a waiting list for more.

Their school is recognised in the area for the quality of the education they provide, alongside the visits, holidays and activities they provide. The school shares its approaches with other Headteachers and schools.

Easter 2019 saw another visit by Mrs Finch with people from Ashton with Haydock Rotary Club, who continue the school with their fundraising. Links that were made last year to the local Rotary Club in King William’s Town have continued to develop. As part of the celebrations, Ashton with Haydock Rotary club presented a number of gifts including heaters for winter, plates and cutlery, chairs for every pupil and dictionaries.

A meeting took place with the officers from the Eastern Cape Education Department and the principal, Mr Mongezi Mncono, to discuss the next steps for the partnership with Byrchall High School.

Various pictures taken at Smiling Valley Farm School
Pupils outside of Smiling Valley Farm School
Pupils outside of Smiling Valley Farm School
Pupil and teachers in Smiling Valley Farm School
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