Thursday 13 June 2013

World champion sprinter Usain Bolt’s relationship with his inspirational teacher Lorna Thorpe is the focus of an international debate – launching a new project giving youngsters across the Commonwealth a worldwide online voice.

Commonwealth Class, a new collaboration between the BBC, the British Council and the Commonwealth Secretariat leading up to the Glasgow 2014 Games, gives 7-14 year-olds the opportunity to hold fortnightly worldwide online debates as well as share educational resources.

Aimed at deepening knowledge of the Commonwealth, and bringing the Commonwealth values into the classroom, the global initiative has already attracted some high-profile backing.

Launching tomorrow, Thursday, June 13, the first online debate on “Who or what inspires you to achieve?” will feature a report on Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt and his PE teacher Lorna Thorpe.

Commonwealth Games double medallist and triple Olympian Lee McConnell is also urging youngsters across the country to get behind the project.

Lee said: “I’m delighted to be involved in this exciting new project which gives children the chance to find out more about the Commonwealth and exchange thoughts and ideas throughout the world.”

Commonwealth Class aims to energise young people’s learning by bringing together schools and children from across the Commonwealth to learn how to make the most of their place in the Commonwealth and wider world.

The programme will enable more than 100,000 schools, 300,000 teachers and 17 million young people across the Commonwealth to access themed learning resources, take part in online exchanges and forums, and work on collaborative projects in cross-Commonwealth teams.

Vicky Gough from the British Council’s Schools team said: “Next year’s Commonwealth Games give us the perfect opportunity to connect children from the UK and all over the Commonwealth. Life is very different in some ways for children in the 71 nations and territories taking part in the Games – but they’ll find that they have a lot in common too. Commonwealth Class celebrates the values of the Commonwealth – set out in the new Charter of the Commonwealth - and connects its schools and young people to learn together about how to be active, responsible global citizens as part of the Commonwealth family.”

Schools can sign up for the project by emailing or by checking out the BBC Commonwealth class article

Notes to Editor

The British Council creates international opportunities for the people of the UK and other countries and builds trust between them worldwide. A Royal Charter charity, it was established as the UK’s international organisation for educational opportunities and cultural relations.

It has a presence in more  100 countries, and its 7000 staff – including 2000 teachers – works with thousands of professionals and policy makers and millions of young people every year through English, arts, education and society programmes.

More than 75% of its annual turnover of £739 million is raised from services which customers pay for, along with education and development contracts and from partnerships. A UK Government grant provides the remaining 25%.  For more information, please visit

The Commonwealth is a family of independent and equal sovereign states co-operating in the common interests of its peoples and in the promotion of international understanding and world peace, and influencing international society to the benefit of all through the pursuit of common principles and values.

The special strength of the Commonwealth lies in the combination of diversity and shared inheritance in language, culture and the rule of law; and bound together by shared history and tradition; by respect for all states and peoples; by shared values and principles and by concern for the vulnerable.

The Commonwealth Secretariat is headed by the Commonwealth Secretary-General appointed by Heads of Government of the 54 member states of the Commonwealth family. The Secretariat works as a trusted partner for all Commonwealth people as:

  • a force for peace, democracy, equality and good governance;
  • a catalyst for global consensus-building;
  • a source of assistance for sustainable development and poverty eradication.