February 2015

The know zone

  • Sixth-form scrutiny
    How are inspectors awarding the new numerical grade for sixth forms? Suzanne O’Farrell digs into the detail. More
  • Timetable for change
    Cherry Ridgway highlights the key dates for implementing the latest set of reforms and their implications for schools and colleges. More
  • Lifting the barriers
    Twilight, half-day and regional events are bringing continuing professional development (CPD) opportunities to more people. More
  • Red Nose Day 2015
    Red Nose Day is back – a chance for schools and colleges to have fun and raise money to help change lives forever. More
  • Top tips when using iPads in the classroom
    The pace of adoption of iPads and other tablets into the classroom has rapidly accelerated in recent years. With this in mind, and with help from some tech-savvy teachers, we’ve put together some top tips for using iPads in the classroom. More
  • Perfect partners?
    Shadow Education Secretary Tristram Hunt recently said that independent schools should do more to partner with state schools – how do you feel about this? Would they work for all schools? Where could they add most value? Here, ASCL members share their views and highlight the many successful partnerships between the two sectors that already exist. More
  • Leaders' surgery
    ASCL members concerned about leadership issues should call the Hotline on 0116 299 1122 or email hotline@ascl.org.uk More
  • Pastures new…
    Changing schools is a chance to start afresh, leaving behind your misdemeanours and presenting yourself to colleagues in a new light. If only it were that easy. More
  • Efficiency drive
    Richard Newton Chance summarises the changes looming in the new financial year. More
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Shadow Education Secretary Tristram Hunt recently said that independent schools should do more to partner with state schools – how do you feel about this? Would they work for all schools? Where could they add most value? Here, ASCL members share their views and highlight the many successful partnerships between the two sectors that already exist.

Perfect partners?

Learn from each other

As a school leader in the state sector, I’ve always felt that the independent sector, to earn their charitable status, should be doing something to support the local educational community. Moreover, in the main, I have always found leaders in independent schools to be enthusiastic to contribute. There may be a few who have closed their doors and barred the gates, but, more often, I have experienced the sharing of peripatetic music staff, sharing sporting facilities and sharing a Combined Cadet Force (CCF) to help engage reluctant boys. The idea that teachers in independent schools may have superior subject knowledge is simply insulting and any policy that tries to enforce co-operation is doomed to fail. However, I am sure that most leaders in schools understand that both sectors have plenty to learn from each other and understand the benefits of cooperation for all participants.

Peter Tomkins - Vice Principal, Montsaye Academy, Rothwell, Northamptonshire

Don’t force partnerships

Enforced state–independent school partnerships are patronising for state schools and a potential irritant for independent schools. Yet, there is a tacit consensus that most (not all) independent schools achieve great things for their pupils. One question is whether these high standards are a result purely of independence or something else. We mustn’t assume that all independent schools are wealthy. Many, especially smaller schools in less affluent areas, struggle to fill their rolls and are not necessarily as well funded as state schools.

I’ve three suggestions. My first is that if the Labour party wants to pursue a class war, that’s fine as long as they are not using schools as their battleground.

My second is that given that there are plentiful examples of good practice in both sectors, the best partnership would be a meeting of minds – opportunities for schools to work closely with one another, developing new initiatives and evaluating what works well and what doesn’t.

My third is that the state system could adopt the independent sector’s inspection system. The Independent Schools Inspectorate (ISI) is based on peer review and has at its heart an improving ethos. Ofsted, with its culture of fear, is not fit for purpose. Few, if any, inspectors have recent leadership or teaching experience. ISI inspectors, on the other hand, are practising educationalists, taking leave from their schools to inspect others and returning at the end of the inspection.

Thomas Packer- Former Headteacher of three independent schools and a founding Head of a free school in London

Enriched understanding

Sidcot School is a key partner in the Weston-super-Mare Education Trust, which has the mission of improving the aspirations and life opportunities of pupils at five primary schools in some of the seaside town’s most deprived areas. The Quaker school has donated teacher time and expertise to the partner schools, introducing new topics like Robotics, and organised sporting events like an inter-school swimming gala.

It is definitely not a one-sided relationship. As a Quaker school, we approach every opportunity with an open and curious mind and we have learnt so much from our engagement with other schools. We have seen some inspirational teaching in classrooms, where teachers passionately believe that their pupils should have a fulfilling and optimistic future. Ask any Sidcot student and they will say that they know that they are extremely fortunate but that our links with state schools and community groups have enriched their understanding of the world and made them want to work for a fairer society.

Iain Kilpatrick - Headmaster, Sidcot School, Winscombe, North Somerset

Natural relationships

The key is in establishing a close personal relationship. Do not force colleagues to work together; just unearth mutually beneficial areas of shared expertise. Invite without expectation. Ultimately a natural relationship will emerge from which both ‘partners’ benefit. The idea of a ‘formal partnership’, complete with rigorous guidelines, is anathema to our way of working. Shared French poetry days, pupils combining to discuss mental health issues (Year 10), staff attending one another’s specifically targeted continuing professional development (CPD), sharing of good pupil-tracking practice, the best school supply deals, Oxbridge Information Evenings; these are not crumbs off anyone’s table but useful, unforced, worthwhile ‘coming togethers’ of hard-working professionals, who have more in common than others would have us believe.

Jonathan Belbin - Headmaster of Kimbolton School (HMC Independent) working alongside Longsands Academy and Ernulf Academy in St Neots, Cambridgeshire

Mutual benefits

According to the 2014 Independent Schools Council (ISC) annual census, 90 per cent of ISC schools are involved in partnership work with their local schools or communities and St Mary’s School in Cambridge is no different. Whether it be teaching ancient Greek after school to a group of students from local state schools, academic outreach at primary level or the three science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) careers days that we have hosted for girls in Years 11 and lower sixth in the state and independent sectors, all such links are developed through mutual trust. The mutually beneficial relationships only work because they are built on trust. We are able to provide access to resources that other schools may not have access to and likewise we value the opportunity to work with other schools, learning from others in our profession, all the while with the intention of providing all students with the best opportunities to learn and develop.

Charlotte Avery - Headmistress, St Mary’s School, Cambridge, Cambridgeshire