Our Head of Partnerships Christina Astin chairs the Events Sub-Committee of the Schools Together Group, an organisation she helped to found 4 years ago. It exists to support the work of those with a professional responsibility for school partnerships. Christina writes…
Two weeks ago I should have been running around organising the Schools Together Group conference at The King’s School, Canterbury in my role as Head of Partnerships. I’d have been ordering flowers, booking our East Kent Schools Together partnership choir to perform, scheduling speakers and breakouts, finalising catering, sorting out room changes for displaced classes and testing microphones.
Instead we arranged a virtual webinar. It was very strange chairing a meeting for over 120 people from my home, but it seemed to work brilliantly. It was of course more limited in scope than a day conference but cost next to nothing, and it was great that so many people from primary, secondary, state and independent schools were able to attend with only 2 weeks’ notice! I really missed catching up with all my partnership colleagues and I don’t like this term “the new normal” but perhaps we are learning that – in education at least – virtual beats travel + cover.
Andrew Lewer MBE MP opened with the keynote address and commended the work done by all schools in collaborating, especially state-independent school partnerships.
We selected twelve lovely panellists involved in school partnerships to share their experiences of Partnerships in Isolation in broad interest areas: careers, primary, academic and enrichment.
Areas covered in the Q&A included:
- the importance of school leaders collaborating during the pandemic
- the widening gap in learning caused by differing access to online provision in lockdown and how schools might work together to narrow that gap
- the legacy of online learning and training
- the excellent sharing of well-being resources
Two important announcements were made at the meeting:
Anushka Chakravarty (London Academy of Excellence, Stratford) launched the Schools Together Group’s latest publication which she co-authored: The Missing 2000. This refers to the estimated 2000 state school students who, with support from partnership intervention, would have a good chance of accessing a top university.
Sarah Butterworth, Chair of the Schools Together Group (Highgate School) announced that after 4 years of the Group’s operation by its Steering Committee, it would be moving towards a professional structure under a new name: The School Partnerships Alliance (SPA). The transition to this new phase will be led by consultant Ian Davenport, formerly of Royal Springboard. Sarah welcomed Ian who then said a few words of introduction.
Since we set up the Schools Together Group in 2016 it has been so encouraging to see the development in the language and mutual respect associated with school partnerships, especially cross-sector ones. It is quite right that we now have high expectations of such collaborations underpinned by rigorous impact evaluation. In these challenging times schools will need to be more open to collaboration than ever before – as we “harness the power of partnerships for the benefit of children”.
Further details including a video recording of the meeting and how to join the Schools Together Group mailing list are available here.
My thanks to Rob Birks from Eton College who hosted the virtual meeting.