School partnerships in Physical Education and Sport

Partnerships in physical education and sport between independent and state schools received a boost in 2013 when Lord Nash became Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Schools within the Department for Education. He appointed Deborah Leek-Bailey OBE, formerly the Headteacher of Babington House School in Kent, as Chair of the Independent State School Partnership (ISSP) forum and subsequently to become an advisor on cross-sector engagement to the Secretary of State – first Michael Gove, then Nicky Morgan and now newly appointed Justine Greening as the new Education Secretary. The ISSP forum brings together representatives from across the educational spectrum with the purpose of forging links between independent and state schools for the mutual benefit of pupils, teachers and communities.

Partnerships in physical education and sport were soon on the forum’s agenda – as Mrs Leek-Bailey writes:

“Physical education and sport play a significant role in ensuring that our pupils are not only fit and healthy but also that they have learnt vital life skills such as teamwork, sustained effort, collaborative leadership and strategic thinking. Sport also enables young people to learn from mistakes so as to strive for future success, as well as understanding the necessity of nurturing and encouraging others.”

In January 2016 the ISSP forum launched the Schools Together website - - to celebrate the role played by existing partnerships and to promote the creation of new ones. More than 1200 successful partnerships are recorded on the site at the time of writing, and over a fifth of these are built on physical education and sport – by far the strongest curricular area. Mrs Leek-Bailey has visited many of the projects across the country and witnessed the reciprocal benefit experienced by pupils and teachers alike.

“Our legacy should involve raising aspirations for all pupils and ensuring that future generations in the UK represent the sport of their choice at all levels, including international competitions – not because of where pupils study but because it is their right.”

The Schools Together website illustrates that all kinds of schools can create partnerships with their neighbours, whether they are large or small, senior or junior, urban or rural, day or boarding, single-sex or co-educational; that the type of partnership can range from programmes that have run for more than a decade to one-off special events; and that pupils as well as teachers can play important roles in the delivery of the partnership.

The twelve partnerships summarised below are chosen to reflect that variety.

Blundell’s School, Tiverton – The school has a partnership with the Culm Valley Small Schools Association, a group that comprises nine local primary schools. Blundell’s has, over a number of years, committed to providing these schools with one of its PE teachers on one morning each week. He travels to each of the local schools, teaching PE and lending equipment. He also welcomes teachers to Blundell’s for in-service training and other meetings.

Hampton School, Middlesex – Boys from Years 10 to 13 make the short walk to Clarendon School during their lunch-breaks on four days of the week in the autumn and spring terms. Clarendon is a day community special school for pupils aged 4-16 with moderate learning difficulties and additional complex needs. On arrival the boys meet the appropriate member of staff from the school and follow their guidance. They spend at least half-an-hour working in small groups to coach a range of sports and games.

Harrow School, Middlesex – Boys welcome children from local schools to Harrow to experience two unusual sports – one of which unique is to the school. Each week twelve boys from Years 10 to 13 give Year 6 children from Vaughan Primary School the opportunity to try Eton fives, a court game that is particularly good at improving aerobic fitness and hand-eye coordination. In a similar programme, boys from Years 12 and 13 introduce Harrow football, the school's unique code, to their contemporaries from local secondary schools. Both schemes develop links between schools in the same community and foster friendships between young people.

Hymers College, Hull – The college plays host to a series of sports holidays for 4-14 year-olds during the autumn half-term break and also in the spring and summer holidays; these are run by the King’s Foundation. By making sport fun and accessible, these King's Camps help children to develop self-esteem, confidence, a sense of achievement, and mutual respect of others.  Their enjoyment helps to establish a healthy lifestyle, with many of the children not only returning year after year, but even developing their love of sport into a career working with the camps.

King’s College School, Wimbledon - Two primary schools, Ronald Ross and Christ Church, send about 35 of their Year 5 and 6 pupils to KCS for an hour every Friday afternoon. KCS pupils from Years 8 to 13 teach them in a variety of sports. In addition, every summer term KCS plays host to four primary schools - Bond, Albemarle, Southmead and Ronald Ross - for a series of sports days, awarding one day of the week to each year-group from Year 3 to 6. A different group of KCS Year 9 pupils runs the activities, overseen by KCS teachers.

King’s School, Rochester - In 2011 King’s approached Medway Council about their plans for the Stirling Centre, a council-run sports centre that was suffering from a history of low-level usage by the public, degenerating facilities and resultant low revenue. Detailed and lengthy discussions began and, in October 2012, King’s successfully concluded a partnership deal with the council that committed £500,000 from the school to refurbish and revitalise the sports centre, thereby giving the local community access to some of the best sporting facilities in the south-east as well as providing a major new sporting resource for King’s pupils of all ages.

Leicester Grammar School – LGS joined the Learning South Leicestershire Partnership when it moved to its new site at Great Glen in 2008.  The school plays host to county tournaments in hockey, netball, table tennis and Rugby football, and in July 2012 it accommodated the Leicestershire and Rutland School Games. In addition, LGS supports county tournaments and leagues alongside its traditional inter-school fixture list, in part to provide additional competitive opportunities to pupils who are not members of ‘A’ team squads.

Norwich School - A team of four Norwich School PE teachers spends 23 hours each week at West Earlham Junior School. Children there receive specialist teaching in a range of sports and activities, and the primary school’s teachers have the opportunity to be helped with their teaching of PE. The team also provides in-service sessions for the teachers and festival coaching and competition days for the pupils.

Nottingham High School – The school plays host to the MCC Foundation’s Nottingham Cricket Hub, one of 38 hubs set up across the country by the charitable arm of the Marylebone Cricket Club.  The Nottingham Hub provides free, high-quality coaching to pupils from local state schools who have the potential to become good cricketers.  The initiative was set up after research showed that 93% of state schools no longer offer cricket lessons.  Pupils from the following schools attend regularly: Nottingham Academy, Joseph Whitaker, Trinity, Kimberley, King’s Grantham, Fernwood, West Bridgford, Emmanuelle, Christ the King, Ellis Guilford, Arnold Hill, Djanogly Academy, Bluecoat Wollaton, Redhill, George Spencer, Top Valley Academy, Carlton Le Willows, Bluecoat Beechdale, and Farnborough Academy.

The Royal Ballet School, London – The primarySTEPS programme provides Year 3 pupils at primary schools in Dagenham, Swindon, Mansfield, Blackpool and Bury St Edmonds with an introduction to ballet. After-school classes and workshops are held on the premises of partner schools and the pupils also attend enrichment classes and performances at The Royal Ballet School. A team of 29 specialist teachers and musicians delivers the programme, supported by a full-time manager and co-ordinator.

The Royal High School, Bath – RHS specialist hockey and netball coaches deliver a half-term block of teaching to Year 5 classes in six local primary schools. The aim of the project is to raise standards and participation in netball and hockey within the local community, and to help primary school teachers to gain sufficient confidence to teach the sports themselves. The programme culminates in a festival to bring the schools together in competition. Master-classes at RHS provide follow-up sessions for the keenest children.

Yateley Manor School, Hampshire - As part of Church Crookham Junior School's programme of Fantastic Friday events, Yateley Manor’s PE teacher, a member of the Yateley Silverbacks basketball team, spent a day coaching basketball to children in Years 4, 5 and 6. Three groups of 15 pupils each received 90 minutes coaching.

It is highly likely that there are many more successful partnerships in physical education and sport than the two-hundred or so currently listed on the website. One purpose, then, of this blog is to invite all schools that play a leading role in a partnership to sign up on the website or to make contact with website’s co-ordinator at The second purpose, of course, is to encourage more schools to take an active part in partnerships in physical education and sport.

I invite Deborah Leek-Bailey to have the final word:

“Partnerships evolve out of a mutual need and flourish when there is reciprocity. A priority for young people is to ensure that they have high aspirations, regardless of type of school, gender, or ethnicity. We are living in a diverse society and the more opportunities pupils have to collaborate with their peers, the more tolerant they are likely to become of alternative perspectives and beliefs. We advise teachers that they should be lifelong learners, so what better way to harness their skills than by encouraging them to collaborate with and observe others?”

By Malcolm Tozer, editor of the journal Physical Education and Sport in Independent Schools.

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