Leading figures from the education sector and parliament have visited York to see a flagship of independent and state school partnership in action.
Lord William Wallace of Saltaire, General Secretary of the Independent Schools Council Julie Robinson and York Central MP Rachael Maskell visited Bootham School and St Peter’s School on Saturday (19 March) as part of a ground-breaking project by the York Independent State School Partnership (ISSP).
Psychology, art and philosophical workshops were on offer as around 350 pupils from state and independent schools work together to approach the question ‘What is the future?’ from a variety of humanities, creative and scientific angles.
Initiated 10 years ago by Bootham School Headmaster Jonathan Taylor and York City Council, York ISSP brings together pupils from six maintained schools, two Church of England academies and three independent schools for a variety of workshops, classes and conferences. The central focus is providing enthusing and informative classes for children across the city.
Jonathan Taylor said: “When I initiated the York Independent State School Partnership, I had no idea that we would be still going after 10 years, let alone at the level of activity which we now take for granted. Over 5000 student learning opportunities have been created for secondary students across the City of York, involving teachers from state, academy and independent schools. We teach Latin and History of Art, we run an autumn residential, a summer school, aspirational career talks, enterprise competitions and training events for teachers. We work with all but one of the secondary schools in the City, on a fully collaborative basis, for the benefit of students and teachers across the City. If we can erode prejudice, encourage learning, and have a lot of fun, education in York has something to celebrate. As we know we have changed students’ life-chances, by developing their skills, opening up new opportunities and qualifications for them, and giving them new confidence, then the celebrations should be loud and strong.
“This weekend we are pleased to welcome distinguished visitors to see for themselves the buzz created by our annual programme of masterclasses, hosted at Bootham and St Peter’s School and taught by a team of over 30 teachers from across the City’s schools. It’s a chance to stretch minds, explore new approaches, make friends and enjoy the opportunity to learn beyond the limits of the school curriculum. As every year, we expect our student feedback to be overwhelmingly excellent. We’ve developed an innovative programme for 10 years, and given the enthusiasm of our students, parents and teachers, I expect the York ISSP to be an exemplary partnership for decades to come.”
The Partnership offers a new and exciting scope of study for York’s pupils: sixty children from eight state schools now take part in weekly GCSE Latin classes. A selection of them will take their exams this summer, with the aim being that they will have progressed from no knowledge of the topic to A* at GCSE in two years.
Leo Winkley, Head Master of St Peter’s School, said: “The evidence of our 10 year collaboration in York is that the state and independent sectors can work together very happily. The old battle lines simply don’t apply any more. We’ve moved on. Here in York we have a partnership that is self-sustaining, independent of government red tape or the dead hand of compliance and inspection protocols. All our efforts are focused on providing the able and interested children of York with challenging and inspiring opportunities to which they would not otherwise have access. The various Masterclasses and programmes, such as the GCSE Latin taught at St Peter’s, Bootham, and All Saints, bring together children and teachers in a shared pursuit that operates above politics and educational rhetoric. At the heart of the success of the project is a dedicated co-ordinator who is jointly salaried by St Peter’s School and Manor Academy. She galvanised the various Head teachers and convenes the group of York teachers who generate the ideas and deliver the programmes.
“York ISSP is rightly seen as a national beacon of excellence. When giving evidence to the Commons Education Select Committee on partnerships, I emphasised the trust and friendship that has built up over the years of collaboration. At a time when the national conversation on education is mired in emphasising difference, our experience is that those working in the independent and state sectors have common goals and a shared passion to offer the best for children. The war is long over in York; and we’re winning the peace by working together in genuine partnership.”
Julie Robinson, General Secretary of ISC, said: “Independent schools are engaged in a wide range of partnership projects with state-funded schools and the York Partnership is an outstanding example of effective collaboration across the sectors. This partnership has grown over time to become a valuable and mutually beneficial scheme, setting the example for others. The York ISSP scheme features on the DfE/ISSP website www.schoolstogether.org so that it can inspire other schools around the country to develop their own partnerships. Together, schools can work effectively with neighbours to raise aspirations and achieve economies of scale.”
Deborah Leek-Bailey OBE, Chair of the Independent State School Partnership and an advisor to ministers, said: “The Independent State School Partnership Forum exists to erode barriers between the sectors, whilst raising aspirations, impacting on attainment and facilitating shared educational opportunities for pupils and teachers. I have had the opportunity to observe at close hand the innovative work of the York partnership over several years and to meet some of those who have led on such excellent initiatives as the Masterclasses. The schools involved are an inspiration to others engaged in cross-sector collaborations and their determination to make a difference to the lives of young people is highly commendable. A partnership which involves eleven schools and is still growing: All Saints RC, Archbishop Holgate’s, Bootham, Canon Lee, Huntington, Joseph Rowntree, Manor, Millthorpe, The Mount, St Peter’s, York High, is a testament to the dedication of the staff from these schools and the outward-facing approach of their leadership teams.
“Never has it been more important to facilitate community cohesion and the more that we expose pupils to alternative perspectives the greater chance they have of competing in a global economy as well as living in harmony. Special mention should be given to Jonathan Taylor, the Head of Bootham School who is a member of the ISSP Forum and has worked tirelessly to enhance the opportunities available for the young people of York. He is retiring at the end of the academic year but his legacy will be reflected in the achievements of the staff and pupils with whom he has worked, for many years to come.”
As part of the visit Lord Wallace, Julie Robinson and Rachael Maskell observed teachers’ classes, listened to pupils’ discussions and talked to pupils and staff involved in the project.
(The information above was originally published in a press release from St Peter's School, York).