With so many state and independent schools engaged in collaborations and partnerships with other schools, it seemed timely to establish a forum for discussion and share ideas. As a newly-appointed head of partnerships I was keen to meet with other people who had responsibility for coordinating partnerships and after conversations with lots of people who seemed supportive, we launched just such a forum and had our first meeting in April.
It was great to meet my opposite numbers, bounce ideas around and share common concerns, and realize that the challenges I was facing were not unique. Our discussions ranged from the benefits of partnership and what works well to different funding models and indeed whether we should meet again! On that last point, it was unanimously agreed that we should, and we decided to adopt the name “Schools Together Group”.
So, what did we feel were the benefits of partnership between schools? Well, there were probably as many different answers to that question as there were schools represented. For some it is about widening students’ experience by meeting with children from other local schools. Where schools share staff CPD there can be all sorts of benefits for colleagues networking with others. In some cases partnership can help school transition, or encourage positive engagement with the local community, sharing facilities or expertise. Of course, for most partnerships there are a number of hoped-for benefits and yet further unintended outcomes.
One thing that the Schools Together Group felt strongly in this first meeting was the importance of broad cross-sector representation at both primary and secondary level. Partnership between schools is important and organisations are increasingly supportive of inter-school collaborations: the National College for Teaching and Leadership, Teaching Schools Alliances, Ofsted, ISSP forum and, for the independent sector, the Independent Schools Council and Charities Commission. And as more schools convert to academies, there are the mutual benefits of multi-academy trusts.
The Schools Together website is a growing directory of partnerships (so far dominated by independent schools, but that can and hopefully will change). It’s a great showcase for what is possible to achieve when schools get together, and that’s why we adopted its name for our group.
The embryonic Schools Together Group has a small steering committee which will organise termly meetings based on themes which will be of interest to partnership coordinators, such as measuring outcomes, funding models, organizing events for primary schools, best practice for multilateral partnerships. Having a different focus for each meeting will help to ensure that meetings are relevant to those attending.
If you’re responsible for partnerships in your school or organization and you’d like find out more about the group and its activities, or would like to host or contribute to a meeting, please do get in touch.
Head of Partnerships
The King’s School, Canterbury