Partnerships: Crossing the road

Written by: HTU | Published:

Anthony David, headteacher of a small one-form entry school, explains how he has forged a strong and fruitful partnership with a neighbouring private school

With the breakdown of local authorities, schools are being forced to realign and if you believe the headlines, you might think that heads are going it alone as more and more schools become academies and as the influence of the local authority dwindles.

But typically this only applies to mavericks who have an anti-social approach towards his or her peers. In fact, out of the ashes of old authorities, new alliances are being forged and where possible heads are taking a creative and sociable approach to this.

This article explores one of the many networks that my school, a small one-form entry north London church school, has taken.

For those who do not know London, you might be surprised to learn that it is not the concrete jungle that is often peddled on Eastenders. Much of London is green and our issue is often that there are too many trees.

My school is located in such a green space with fields behind me that go on as far as the eye can see (the M1 is only a few yards away but we try to ignore that view).

Located around us are a number of private schools. Mill Hill School is literally opposite us. It takes less than five minutes to walk from my office to the head’s office at Mill Hill. Naturally, this private school, which ranks itself within the top 10 in the country, offers the range of luxury resources that you would expect: swimming pool, theatre, science labs, astro-turf pitches, state of the art ICT labs, more than 100 acres of land, and so on. The list is enviable.

With such a list of rich-pickings, when I arrived at my school I assumed that we would be working alongside Mill Hill in order to expand the potential range of resources we could access.

I could not have been more wrong. The current head had never met my predecessor and the school could not remember a time when it had a partnership with us.Both schools had spent years facing each other in a sort of Mexican stand-off waiting for the other to blink. As an enthusiastic and new head I was not to know this and was quite surprised by the warm welcome I received when I crossed the road.

It was one of relief and excitement. I felt like the prodigal son returning home, though in my case I thought I was popping across the road to meet the neighbours and ask for a metaphorical bowl of sugar. It became clear quite quickly that a lot more was potentially on offer if we could work together.

The relationship we have forged has three distinctive elements:

• Leadership opportunities for 6th form students at my school.

• Access to additional resources beyond our school’s capability.

• Professional development opportunities for middle leaders as they work in partnership.

The first programme we set up had a simple remit: 6th form students working in my school for one hour a week. The remit was to provide the students an opportunity for community service alongside their existing programmes.

It was simple enough to develop and meant that for two terms there were additional “hands” managing a range of different activities, from playground support to reading with groups.

Our first year was a trial and the second has been planned with much better understanding of how we can improve the system.

As a school, we have accessed a sports coach who has trained a select group of the 6th-formers in basic refereeing (as with any school, football is highly popular at break times) with the view that some of the 6th-formers may want to take the training further in order to attain their referee qualification.

So there are a number of benefits: providing useful skills that can be transferred into the real world while providing a much needed support during lunch-time games with the confidence that they have been trained. It is a financial saving for the school and potentially an income source for the 6th-formers.

The partnership is not one-sided as we have been able to access resources within Mill Hill’s grounds. This has meant performing top quality shows in their theatre, using resources that we would not be able to consider on my site. Equally, we are exploring access to the swimming pool which could result in the school being able to offer swimming to all our children, not just one year, which would better guarantee them all being able to swim 25 metres by the time they leave primary education.

We are also looking for a space of woodland within their site to run our forestry skills classes. And it has been done without an agenda other than local schools working together.

It has also provided a much-needed professional development opportunity for members of both teams. In essence good teachers are enthusiasts and being the sociable animals that we are there is an exciting energy when these enthusiasts are brought together.

This local network has a genuine purpose. Children and adults are developing real skills that can be applied to real situations. A smooth symmetry has been formed where one partner has been able to support another. Arguably it is a network that might not have formed had the current changes forced me to look creatively in other directions.

Whatever the reason, it has come as an unexpected and welcome benefit. The exciting aspect of this network is seeing where it will take us and understanding that the more willing each partner is, the deeper the relationship can become.

It is an exciting phase for the school as we break out beyond our boundaries and all of this began when I crossed the road to meet the neighbours.



• Anthony David is headteacher of St Paul’s CE Primary School in north London.

• For more primary education best practice and advisory articles from Headteacher Update, click here.


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